Photo: AP/Thanassis Stavrakis
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek leaders entered a second day of closed-door political talks Sunday to ensure the country doesn’t go bankrupt in the next few weeks and that it remains in the eurozone.The Socialist government of Prime Minister George Papandreou, who narrowly survived a parliamentary confidence vote early Saturday, said it has started talks to form a temporary coalition to run the country for the next four months.
Papandreou, mid-way into a four-year term, has promised early elections by March and has said he would be prepared to step aside.
But the conservative leader of the main opposition party said Sunday no talks between the two parties were taking place and Antonis Samaras also reiterated his stance that Papandreou must resign before any coalition discussions can take place.
Samaras made his latest comments after a brief meeting with President Karolos Papoulias, a mainly ceremonial figure who has called for collaboration between the two main parties.
The political crisis puts into jeopardy a new bailout package of euro130 billion ($180 billion), agreed on Oct. 27. Greece’s EU partners and creditors are pressing Papandreou and other political leaders to form a coalition government, following Papandreou’s aborted attempt to call a referendum on the acceptance of the new package.
Government spokesman Elias Mossialos told state television Sunday that talks have begun and the name of the new prime minister should be known by Monday, in which case Papandreou would resign. Mossialos later told The Associated Press that his remarks regarding a new premier expressed “a personal wish” and are not an official announcement.
Samaras’ party denied any talks were taking place “either in the open or behind the scenes.”
Greece’s EU partners are pressing Papandreou and other political leaders to form a coalition government, following Papandreou’s aborted attempt to call a referendum on the acceptance of a new bailout package of euro130 billion, agreed on Oct. 27.
Papandreou’s referendum proposal sent the global markets into turmoil and angered even his own socialist deputies. Papandreou has promised to work toward a caretaker coalition government which he will not lead. It was only this promise that allowed the government to survive the confidence vote.
The socialists and the main opposition New Democracy differ on the duration of such a caretaker government, with the opposition demanding elections within a few weeks and the government saying the coalition Cabinet should last through the end of February.