On Tue, Nov 1, 2011 at 11:01 AM, Doug Singsen <firstname.lastname@example.org
> Government in Greece Nears Collapse Over Referendum
> By NIKI KITSANTONIS and RACHEL DONADIO
> ATHENS — The Greek government was plunged into chaos on Tuesday and faced an
> imminent collapse, as lawmakers rebelled against Prime Minister George
> Papandreou’s surprise call for a popular referendum on a new debt deal with
> Greece’s foreign lenders.
> Power company customers lined up in Athens on Monday to ask about a new tax.
> President George A. Papandreou’s surprise promise of a vote on austerity
> measures threatens a deal reached to ease the European debt crisis.
> Such a collapse would not only render the referendum plan moot, it would
> likely scuttle — or at least delay — the debt deal that was agreed on in
> Brussels last week, putting Greece on a fast track to default and possible
> exit from the monetary union of countries sharing the euro currency.
> Analysts said that Mr. Papandreou’s call for a referendum was a last resort,
> meant to gain broader political support for the unpopular austerity measures
> in the deal without forcing early elections that would only worsen the
> country’s political and economic turmoil.
> But after weeks of mounting pressure, one Socialist lawmaker quit the party
> to become an independent, reducing Mr. Papandreou’s majority to 152 seats
> out of 300 in Parliament, and another six Socialists wrote a letter calling
> on Mr. Papandreou to resign and schedule early elections for a new
> government with greater political legitimacy. Together, the developments
> made it doubtful whether his government would survive a confidence vote
> planned for Friday.
> Meanwhile, the center-right opposition New Democracy party on Tuesday
> stepped up its calls for early elections. Its leader, Antonis Samaras, has
> opposed most of the austerity measures the government accepted in exchange
> for foreign financial aid. Mr. Samaras has said that if he were in power, he
> would try to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s arrangement with its
> principal foreign lenders, known as the troika: the European Union, the
> European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
> “Mr. Papandreou, in his effort to save himself, has presented a divisive and
> extortionate dilemma,” Mr. Samaras said on Tuesday. “New Democracy is
> determined to avert, at all costs, such reckless adventurism.”
> Mr. Samaras declined to say whether he would ask his 85 members of
> Parliament to resign, a move that would lead to the dissolution of
> Parliament and a snap election. The next general election was not due until
> 2013, when the Socialists’ four-year-term expires. Mr. Samaras is expected
> to clarify his stance at a meeting of his party’s parliamentary group on
> European leaders have repeatedly dismissed Mr. Samaras’s notion of
> renegotiating Greece’s deal with its lenders, saying that trying to do so
> would be damaging and would throw away months of work on a plan to keep
> Greece from defaulting.
> Mr. Papandreou’s announcement of a referendum took Greek lawmakers by
> surprise, just a s it did political leaders and investors across Europe. On
> Tuesday, the state television channel Net reported that even the finance
> minister, Evangelos Venizelos, had not been informed in advance about the
> referendum, although he was aware of plans for a confidence vote.
> Mr. Venizelos was taken to a hospital Tuesday morning, complaining of
> stomach pain. Doctors said he had an inflamed appendix. He is the latest in
> a string of governing party officials to be rushed to hospitals in recent
> weeks. One Greek negotiator had a heart attack in Brussels last week.
> On Tuesday, European leaders said the deal reached last week to write down
> 50 percent of some Greek debt was the best available way to build a
> financial “firewall” that would keep Greece’s troubles from causing a
> damaging run on other shaky European economies like that of Italy.
> The political instability in Greece has long dismayed European officials. In
> a statement, the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso,
> and the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, said that
> Europe’s plans to protect other vulnerable members were “more necessary than
> ever, without delay.”
> “We are convinced that this agreement is the best for Greece,” they added.
> “We fully trust that Greece will honor the commitments undertaken in
> relation to the euro area and the international community.”
> In Greece, Mr. Papandreou’s referendum proposal seemed to be his last, best
> hope. His political capital has dried up, and he faces intense anger from
> voters who have been squeezed to the breaking point by the austerity
> measures demanded by Greece’s foreign lenders.
> “Papandreou could not take more political punishment,” said George Kirsos, a
> political analyst and the owner of the Athens City Paper. “We have a strange
> situation: Everyone’s cursing the government, and everyone expects the
> government to do the job by itself — to reorganize the economy, to cut the
> deficit, to make a deal with the Germans — but at the same time, nobody
> helps him.”
> “All parties and all media criticize the government,” Mr. Kirstos added. “So
> Papandreou, in a sense, tried his best to do the referendum to force the
> parties, the media and the citizens to undertake their own responsibility.
> The referendum is a yes or no issue: Either you are in favor, or you decide
> that you say goodbye to the euro zone.”
> Charged by Europe with dismantling the welfare state they helped create,
> many of Mr. Papandreou’s Socialist members of Parliament feel they too have
> reached their breaking points.
> Vasso Papandreou, a prominent member of parliament and a former minister who
> is not related to the prime minister, called on Greek President Karolos
> Papoulias to order the formation of a unity government ahead of early
> general elections. “Bankruptcy is imminent,” she said. Earlier this month,
> Ms. Papandreou said she would vote for a new raft of austerity measures, but
> that it would be “the last time” she supported the government
> “The current government has none of these necessary prerequisites. Today’s
> government policy is asphyxiating. Day by day the country is experiencing
> collapse, lawlessness and absence of government,” they added.
> If Mr. Papandreou’s government falls, it would not be the first one in
> Europe to be toppled by the austerity demanded by European debt relief. In
> Ireland and Portuga,l governments that accepted bailouts from the European
> Union and the International Monetary Fund fell, and last month the Slovakian
> government fell over whether to participate in the European Union’s rescue
> Niki Kitsantonis reported from Athens and Rachel Donadio from Rome. Stephen
> Castle contributed reporting from Brussels.