Greek deal on new coalition will secure bailout
GREEK Prime Minister George Papandreou sealed a deal yesterday with the opposition on forming a coalition to approve a eurozone bailout before early elections, breaking an impasse after the EU demanded a rapid end to the political bickering.
Mr Papandreou agreed to stand down when the new government takes over, the office of the Greek president said in a statement, issued after the European Union gave Greece 24 hours to explain how it would form a unity government to enact its €130bn emergency funding package.
"Today was a historic day for Greece," Greek government spokesman Ilias Mossialos said last night. A new government would be sworn in and hold a confidence vote within a week if all went to plan, he added.
However, Mr Papandreou's agreement with conservative leader Antonis Samaras was thin on details, with the new prime minister still to be decided.
"Tomorrow there will be new communication between the prime minister and the opposition leader on who will be the leader of the new government," said the statement, which made no mention of how long the interim government would rule.
Mr Papandreou and Mr Samaras -- who were once US college roommates -- had to bury their deep differences and personal animosity, as Greece is deep in economic, political and social crisis, its future in the eurozone is in question, and their reputations among ordinary Greeks are at rock bottom.
"The two leaders had no other choice. If elections were held now, nobody would turn out to vote for them," said Elias Nikolakopoulos, political science professor at Athens University. "New elections will probably be held at the end of February or early March. They have no time to implement the EU bailout deal before then," he added.
Brussels has piled pressure on Athens to approve the bailout, a last financial lifeline for Greece, fearing that its crisis will spill into much bigger eurozone economies such as Italy and Spain.
Mr Papandreou and Mr Samaras had been scrambling to reach a deal before finance ministers of euro countries meet in Brussels today, to show that Greece is serious about taking steps needed to stave off bankruptcy.