The Greek government could collapse within hours. This morning, opposition leader Antonis Samaras called on prime minister George Papandreou, and a number of other figures – including senior government members such as Milena Apostolaki – have echoed that call. Papandreou’s premiership looks to be hanging by a thread, and could be over by the evening.
There has been alarm across Europe in recent days over Papandreou’s plan to hold a referendum over the current bailout deal that has been put together by the EU. After emergency talks with the prime minister earlier on Tuesday, Antonis Samaras told reporters that the referendum endangered Greece’s position in the eurozone and that a general election should be called immediately.
German sources in particular have expressed horror at the decision to hold a referendum in Greece, calling Papandreou’s move ‘suicidal’ and ‘risky’. If Greeks vote to support the deal, Papandreou would be seen to have pulled off a major success in proving popular support for the deal. But there is real concern that Greeks would vote against the deal, in which case the eurozone would be plunged back into chaos.
The situation in Greece is now moving extremely quickly. Financial markets in London, Berlin and Paris have reacted negatively to Papandreou’s announcement of a referendum, and Wall Street is expected to follow suit. At the weekend it seemed that a viable rescue deal had been put together. Now there are real concerns that by calling a referendum on the deal, George Papandreou has thrown away all that hard work. Others, though, say that a functioning democracy should not fear letting the people decide whether to accept such a deal.