Greek Prime Minister Papandreou Wins Confidence Vote, Then Resigns


Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, whose Halloween prank was an out-of-the-blue call for a public referendum on the European Union’s bailout package that scared the hell out of the global financial markets, narrowly survived a confidence vote on Friday, but then announced he would resign anyway, as reported by the UK Telegraph:

The agreement came after the two leaders held talks with the president in an effort to break a political deadlock and thrash out a deal for a national unity government demanded by the country’s European partners.

A presidency statement said they will meet again on Monday to discuss who would lead the coalition government, but that Papandreou would not lead the new administration.

George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, cleared the way for his resignation by scheduling a three way meeting with Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative opposition, and the president to overcome sticking points over the leadership and duration of the unity government.

A seven point plan for the new government was thrashed out at a cabinet meeting of socialist government. It included a deadline for parliament to ratify the eurozone bailout before the end of December.

Some observers had wondered if the referendum stunt was intended as political suicide all along, permitting a weary Papandreou to leave office as a “man of the people” who nobly sacrificed his career to give Greece a democratic say in its future, and now gets to move someplace where he won’t have to listen to violent “austerity” riots boiling outside his bedroom window every night. 

Others see the hand of the European Union behind the resignation, as the authors of the bailout package knock the heads of Greek party leaders together and demand a more stable government to approve and implement financial rescue plans:

Behind the scenes the main figures in Greek politics were under direct pressure to produce a ‘national salvation’ government from Brussels, Berlin and Paris. Mr Samaras was forced to deny that he had been telephoned by Chancellor Merkel with a demand that he sign up to the pact by morning.

President Karolos Papoulias warned that the wrangling between party leaders was increasing the misery of a population battered by budget cuts and a collapsing economy.

“This uncertainty that is torturing the Greek people must end. We must find a solution,” President Papoulias said before meeting Mr Samaras.

There has been some confusion over how long the “caretaker” government would last, but Business Today thinks the government’s desire to hold off on new elections until February will prevail:

The two major political parties – Papandreou’s PASOK party and the opposition New Democracy party – who agreed to set up a coalition government, announced that early elections could be tentatively scheduled for February 19, 2012, the finance ministry said.

The new prime minister’s candidacy is yet to be agreed, but Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is also the finance minister, will keep his post.

Greek media named three people as possible candidates to succeed Papandreou. All of them served as the country’s representatives in the European Union.

The possible successors are former vice president of the European Central Bank Lukas Papademos, European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros and former European commissioner Stavros Dimas.

(Emphasis mine.)  We could know as early as this afternoon who will be the lucky winner of the Prime Minister’s office.  Grand prize is the honor of telling post-Papandreou Greece that the public money spigots are getting turned off.