Greek PM to Step Down for Short-Term Coalition Government

Posted November 6th, 2011 at 8:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Greek Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou and conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras meet again Monday to pick a new caretaker prime minister.

Mr. Papandreou is stepping down in favor of a short-term coalition government whose primary task will be reaching agreement on a new European Union bailout deal. The coalition will lead until new elections, which could come as early as February 19.

Mr. Papandreou will not lead the new coalition. It is not clear if he plans to run again next year.

The purpose of the temporary government is to get the Greek parliament and Cabinet to accept the terms of a new European Union economic bailout. The deal requires Greece to raise taxes and make deeper cuts in government jobs and pensions.

A Greek government spokesman says that Sunday was a historic day for Greece, with the prime minister agreeing to give up power to possibly save the country from bankruptcy. But many ordinary Greeks, who say they have sacrificed enough, say all politicians are the same and that new elections are meaningless.

Greece's political crisis was set off by Mr. Papandreou's surprise announcement last week that he would put the terms of the EU deal for Greece to a referendum. The proposal shocked the country and stunned the EU. The prime minister backed down from that referendum plan under pressure from the EU and his own government.

European leaders have called on Greece to approve the new bailout plan and implement the terms of last year's rescue package by the EU and International Monetary Fund.

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has said Greece needs the next $11 billion installment of its existing bailout by December in order to avoid bankruptcy.