Greece set to pick new PM
Athens, November 7, 2011
Lucas Papademos, a former deputy head of the European Central Bank, was on Monday tipped to emerge as Greek prime minister as leaders bargained over who will lead a new coalition to push through a bailout before the country runs out of money in mid-December.
But whoever leads the transitional government of national unity will have a monumental task in restoring order to a country whose chaotic economy and politics are shaking international confidence in the entire euro project.
With the European Union demanding a quick resolution to the political crisis, Prime Minister George Papandreou sealed a deal on Sunday with the conservative opposition on the crisis coalition to approve the international financial aid package.
Papandreou informed European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, by phone on Monday about efforts to form the coalition, his office said.
The Greek leaders' job on Monday was to agree a new prime minister, possibly a technocrat who must exert authority over hardened party chiefs from the center-left and center-right, and made decisions which will affect Greeks for a decade.
Papandreou also spoke to conservative New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras on the coalition, and his office said more talks would follow later in the day.
In an early sign that a broad compromise will be hard to achieve, President Karolos Papoulias's plan to summon the heads of all leading parties for more negotiations on Monday was dropped after two leftist parties refused to attend.
However, the new prime minister will have their hands full merely getting Papandreou's socialist PASOK party and the conservative New Democracy party of Samaras to work together, regardless of whether the leaders join the cabinet.
'I'm afraid the new government will very soon turn out to be problematic,' conservative former finance minister Stefanos Manos told Reuters.
'The new prime minister will ... not give the impression that he is in charge. Everyone will be looking to the two party leaders who will be running things behind the scenes,' he said, adding: 'The civil service won't implement any decision and everyone will be waiting for the election.'
Papademos, who as Bank of Greece governor oversaw the nation's adoption of the euro in 2002 before moving to the European Central Bank, is a front runner as premier.
'The prime minister had several telephone contacts with Papademos in the last days,' a senior government official told reporters.
At least the two parties agreed on the likely life of the coalition, deciding in the early hours of Monday morning that February 19 would be the preferred date -- hours before Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos must explain Greece's plans when he meets his euro zone peers at a meeting in Brussels.-Reuters