ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s prime minister struggled Saturday to form a temporary coalition government in the near-bankrupt country, extending a political deadlock threatening billions in international rescue funds.
In an impassioned plea to parliament late Friday, George Papandreou agreed to step aside as premier if necessary to help hammer out a coalition, offering to include the conservative opposition party – a possibility swiftly rejected by its leader.
Papandreou said a new coalition government would need four months to secure the new $179 billion rescue agreement and demonstrate the country’s commitment to remaining in the eurozone.
“Cooperation is necessary to guarantee – for Greece and for our partners – that we can honor our commitments,” Papandreou said at a meeting Saturday with President Karolos Papoulias, hours after his Socialist government narrowly survived a confidence vote.
But Papandreou’s plea was snubbed by conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras.
“We have not asked for any place in his government. All we want is for Mr. Papandreou to resign, because he has become dangerous for the country,” Samaras said. “We insist on immediate elections.”
Samaras was due to meet with the president today.
The conservative snub left Papandreou with limited options: negotiating with conservative splinter groups and independents to attract consensus, and possibly invite respected non-politicians to join the effort.
“(Papandreou) will not resign immediately and he cannot resign before there is a new government. What remains to be seen is how flexible he will be in seeking a different governmental makeup,” said Ilias Nicolacopoulos, a political analyst. “There will be a tough game of poker.”