News / Europe

Greek Opposition Leader Calls for Early Elections

Conservative Greek opposition leader Antonis Samaras addresses conservative members of parliament in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011.
Conservative Greek opposition leader Antonis Samaras addresses conservative members of parliament in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011.

A Greek opposition leader has called on Prime Minister George Papandreou to resign and repeated a call for early elections, ahead of a confidence vote expected in parliament on Friday.

Antonis Samaras made the demand Thursday during a parliamentary meeting to vote on whether to accept a European Union bailout package that contains deeply unpopular spending cuts.

Mr. Papandreou said Thursday that calling early elections would be "catastrophic."  The prime minister also said Greece must implement the EU bailout plan.

Those developments came after Mr. Papandreou told his Cabinet earlier in the day that he will drop plans for a nationwide referendum on the plan.

Officials say Mr. Papandreou dropped his call for the referendum after the opposition reversed its position and said it would support the deal.  The prime minister said if he had the opposition's backing on the deal, there was no need to hold a referendum.

European leaders have warned Greece that if it does not follow the terms of the bailout package, it will get no more EU funding. Mr. Papandreou has said that Greece's future in the eurozone is at stake.

Earlier Thursday, opposition leader Samaras called for the creation of a transition government to prepare for early elections, rather than allow Mr. Papandreou to hold the referendum.  Lawmakers in Mr. Papandreou's own party had threatened to abandon his government over the controversial vote.

And Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos broke ranks Thursday with Mr. Papandreou over the referendum proposal, saying Greece's status in the eurozone should not be put to a popular vote.

On the street, some Greek citizens say they want the euro, but they fear future hardships.

"I believe we must stay in the euro even though the European Union is not a saint.  It followed a policy that was in the interest of the large political powers and that is why Greece is having problems, but I believe it provides a support for the country," said a student.

"I prefer we stay in the euro because we will be destroyed otherwise.  They are trying to destroy us but I hope they don't succeed.  I think they [the government] should go home," said another person.

"There is no other solution.  Is there any other solution than the euro?  When we will be paying for gas in drachmas what will we do?  They [the government] have no idea what they are doing unfortunately," said another.

"Greece must stay in the euro, but Papandreou must resign," said a pensioner.

"Since we entered the European Union, I see that instead of having a better life, things are getting worse and I don't know where we will end up.  There are many vested interests outside and inside Greece, and I don't know how this will end.  I don't know from now on what is best for us," said another person.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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