News / Europe

Greek PM Faces Allies, Court on State TV Closure

Supporters of the employees of state broadcaster ERT sit outside its headquarters in Athens, June 17, 2013. Supporters of the employees of state broadcaster ERT sit outside its headquarters in Athens, June 17, 2013.
x
Supporters of the employees of state broadcaster ERT sit outside its headquarters in Athens, June 17, 2013.
Supporters of the employees of state broadcaster ERT sit outside its headquarters in Athens, June 17, 2013.
Reuters
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faced a double challenge on Monday from coalition partners furious over the shutdown of state broadcaster ERT and a court hearing that could put the shuttered station back on air.

ERT's abrupt closure last week in the name of austerity to please EU and IMF lenders triggered a deep rift in the ruling coalition, throwing the debt-choked nation back into turmoil just as faint hopes of a recovery had begun to sprout.

Exactly a year after a general election brought Samaras and his two leftist allies to power, the three parties have fed fears of hugely disruptive snap polls by refusing to compromise over an entity that was widely unloved until its shock overnight closure.

“It's clear that over the last days any semblance of logic in dealing with this issue has been lost,” said Costas Panagopoulos, head of ALCO pollsters. “The most absurd thing is that we are talking about a possible destruction of the country over ERT.”

Aware his allies stand to lose heavily in any election, the conservative Samaras has refused in a flurry of speeches to turn the “sinful” ERT back on, vowing to fight to modernize a country he says had become a “Jurassic Park” of inefficiency and corruption.

His PASOK and Democratic Left partners, who risk humiliation and the loss of any future say in the coalition, rejected Samaras's offer of a limited restart of broadcasts. The three party leaders are to meet at 1630 GMT to seek a solution.

“It's impossible to say how far they will go because all logic has gone out the window,” said Panagopoulos. “Normally, you would expect they would not be willing to throw everything up in the air over this decision. Greece has gone back to where it was a year ago in terms of political instability over ERT.”

He estimated a 30 percent risk of elections over the summer, despite all three parties insisting there will be no early poll.

“We don't want early elections, we want to do our job,” Makis Voridis, a lawmaker from Samaras's New Democracy party told Reuters. “We promised reforms to the Greek people and ERT is a small first step.”

Ratings agency Moody's said the fraying political consensus on ERT's closure and slippage on a troubled privatization program after Athens failed to sell off state natural gas firm DEPA were negative for Greece's lowly C credit rating.

“Without a compromise among coalition partners, the risk of new elections will increase,” the agency said.

A senior euro zone official voiced concern that Greece was hurtling back to its days of crisis and drama, given the slow pace of public sector reforms and privatizations.

“It's kind of deja vu with Greece,” the official said.

A tired nation

Opinion polls over the weekend showed a majority of Greeks opposed the shutdown, due rather to its abruptness - screens went black a few hours after the announcement, cutting off newscasters mid-sentence - than to the decision itself.

Journalists have gone on strike, thousands have rallied in protest outside ERT's headquarters and the broadcaster's 2,600 staff have continued to broadcast over the Internet in defiance of management orders to pack up and leave.

Hard left opposition leader Alexis Tsipras was to address a rally in the central Syntagma square at 1700 GMT to decry what he called Samaras's “authoritarian policy” of shutting down ERT.

On Monday, the bootleg feed showed a video montage of ordinary Greeks, including young children, recounting how they felt when the broadcaster was taken off air.

Still, not all Greeks were impressed with the outcry over ERT and the strikes in its defense in a country grinding through its sixth year of recession, with unemployment at 27 percent.

“What about the other 1.5 million people who are unemployed?” said 63-year old Marika Vlassopoulou, a pensioner.

Also on Monday, Greece's top administrative court will hear an appeal by ERT's trade union against the decision to shut the broadcaster, with a ruling expected later on Monday or Tuesday.

A ruling in favor of the union would temporarily suspend the government decision, meaning ERT's signal would be restored.

Still, officials have said the decision to shut down the broadcaster helped Greece obtain its latest tranche of bailout funds worth 3.3 billion euros last week from lenders, so Samaras has already pocketed a minor victory from the shutdown.

A ruling switching the signal back on could offer a way out of the impasse by allowing coalition partners to maintain their positions but defer to the court as the final say on the matter.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs