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Europe
Greek PM in bid to form coalition
Rival parties show little willingness to co-operate after Papandreou survived a parliamentary confidence vote.
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2011 04:41
Papandreou's governing Socialist (PASOK) party narrowly won a vote of confidence on Friday night [Al Jazeera]

George Papandreou, Greece's prime minister, has launched his campaign for a coalition to save Greece from bankruptcy, but rival parties showed little willingness to co-operate in tackling the nation's economic, political and social crisis.

Papandreou said on Saturday that negotiations would start soon to form a broad-based government, tasked with ensuring parliament backs a euro zone bailout vital to keeping Greece afloat and preventing its crisis from bringing down much bigger economies.

But a government source said Papandreou's deputy, Evangelos Venizelos, the finance minister, was already negotiating behind the scenes to win support from smaller parties for a government that Venizelos himself wants to lead.

"Venizelos is having contacts with party leaders to secure their agreement," said a government official who requested anonymity.

Top political forces

Greece's two top political forces - the ruling socialist PASOK party and conservative opposition New Democracy - displayed little appetite for working together to tackle a crisis that has driven Greece deep into recession, sent unemployment soaring and living standards tumbling.

Earlier, Papandreou told the Greek president that a political consensus is crucial to avoid early elections and protect the country's membership of the eurozone.

In Depth

  Q&A: Eurozone debt crisis
  Map: Eurozone members
  Profile: George Papandreou
  Programmes: Buying time in the eurozone

Papandreou's meeting with President Karolos Papoulias came just hours after he won a confidence vote in the Socialist-led parliament on a pledge that he was willing to step aside and form a cross-party caretaker government.

"My aim is to immediately create a government of co-operation," Papandreou told the president in the presence of reporters before the two leaders held talks behind closed doors on Saturday.

"A lack of consensus would worry our European partners about our country's membership of the eurozone."

Yet Antonis Samaras, leader of the opposition conservative party, repeated his demand for Papandreou's resignation and snap elections.

"We now ask only one thing in order to turn to normality: Elections. This is the only way for the stabilisation of the country, to restore its image, and to emerge sooner from this nightmare," Samaras said.

Samaras, head of the New Democracy party, said he still backed the idea of a short-term coalition government with the aim of securing parliamentary approval of a eurozone bailout for Greece before elections are held.

Samaras will meet the country's president on Sunday at 1100 GMT, a statement from the president's office said.

In a speech to parliament late on Friday nigh, Papandreou said a new coalition should be formed to force a $180bn bailout deal through the assembly, the last financial lifeline for a nation that is due to run out of money in December.

Papandreou's socialist government won with 153 votes in the 300 member parliament.

Larger rebellion

A larger rebellion by some dissidents in his PASOK party failed to materialise after he indicated that his term as prime minister was close to an end.

Without saying when he would actually resign, Papandreou, who has led Greece through two years of political, economic and social turmoil, said he was ready to discuss who should lead the new government, which would rule until elections probably early next year.

"The last thing I care about is my post. I don't care even if I am not re-elected," Papandreou told parliament before the vote in the early hours of Saturday.

Papandreou has dismissed demands for rapid elections, saying 'they would equal disaster' [EPA]

"The time has come to make a new effort ... I never thought of politics as a profession."

The leaders of the far-right LAOS party and another centre-right party indicated after Papandreou's speech that they would co-operate in a new coalition.

However, opposition leader Antonis Samaras counted his New Democracy party out of the coalition, saying Papandreou had spurned his call for a national unity government.

"Papandreou rejected our proposal. The only solution is elections," he said.

Dismissing the demands, Papandreou said: "Elections at this moment not only equal disaster but could not take place in the best interest of the people.

"There is one solution. To support the [EU bailout] deal with a multiparty approach, without elections, with a strong
government."

Under heavy domestic and international pressure, Papandreou had backed down on a proposal for a referendum on the eurozone rescue.

Greek voters could well have rejected the deal, potentially sinking eurozone leaders' attempts to stop the debt crisis devastating economies such as Italy and Spain.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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