Chaos in Greece amid battle to form a ‘government of national salvation’
European leaders watch nervously as embattled premier tries to find allies and avoid being thrown out of the eurozone
Helena Smith and Tom Kington
Saturday 5 November 2011
Politicians in Greece were engaged in frantic negotiations to form a government of “national salvation” on Saturday in a desperate bid to prevent debt-stricken Athens plunging into bankruptcy and possible exit from the EU.
As Europe’s leaders looked on nervously, embattled prime minister George Papandreou visited head of state president Karalos Papoulias to ask to form a broad-based transitional administration that could navigate the country out of its worst crisis in modern times following a week of high political drama.
“My aim is to immediately create a government of co-operation. A lack of consensus would worry our European partners over our country’s will to stay in the eurozone,” declared Papandreou who hours earlier narrowly survived a vote of confidence in parliament. “Consensus is essential for the country,” he said, adding that he was not “tied” to his post and was willing to step aside.
In Greece’s bitterly divided political scene forming such a government will not be easy. The battle lines between left and right, shaped historically by a brutal civil war and military dictatorship, remain deep. Papandreou’s offer was immediately shot down by the conservative main opposition party, who instead repeated calls for snap elections to be held immediately, a step described as a “disaster” by the socialist premier.
“We’ve not asked for any place in his government,” opposition leader Antonis Samaras said in a TV address. “All we want is for Mr Papandreou to resign because he has become dangerous for the country. We insist on immediate elections.”