Greek PM Looks To Form Coalition – Greece’s embattled prime minister and main opposition leader agreed Sunday to form an interim government to ensure the country’s new European debt deal, capping a week of political turmoil that saw Greece face a catastrophic default that threatened its euro membership and roiled international markets.
As part of the deal, Prime Minister George Papandreou agreed to step down halfway through his four-year term. He and conservative opposition head Antonis Samaras are to meet Monday to discuss who will become prime minister and the makeup of the Cabinet.
The new unity government’s main task will be to pass the European rescue package, reached after marathon negotiations between European leaders barely a week ago – a move considered crucial to shoring up the euro. The interim government will then lead the country into early elections, expected early next year.
Officials had been anxious to reach some form of agreement before a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday.
“Of course it’s a breakthrough,” government spokesman Elias Mossialos said. “It is a historical day for Greece, we will have a coalition government very soon, early next week. The prime minister and the leader of the opposition will discuss tomorrow the name of the new prime minister and the names of ministers.”
Papandreou sparked the latest crisis by announcing last week that he was taking the hard-fought debt agreement to a referendum. That outraged European leaders, who said such a vote could raise the specter of Athens leaving the common currency – setting off an unpredictable chain reaction that could drag down other European countries.
They also warned a vote would jeopardize the disbursement of a vital $11 billion (euro8 billion) installment of Greece’s existing $152 billion (euro110 billion) bailout, which the country desperately needs to avoid the potential of a catastrophic default within weeks.