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The closure of the national broadcaster ERT was about to lead to early elections

21 June 2013 / 01:06:17  GRReporter
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Greece was facing, for several hours, the possibility of early elections, exactly a year after the formation of the triple coalition. The leaders of the ruling coalition in Greece had met for the third consecutive day to solve the problems in the government caused by the closure of the state broadcaster ERT. The crisis in the relations between the three parties had begun with Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis’ accusations to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that he had decided to close ERT without seeking advice from them.

The meeting between the three had been prematurely interrupted, the leaders of PASOK and Democratic Left set off to the party headquarters and the Prime Minister called all ministers from New Democracy in the council of ministers.

A little later, Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the smallest coalition partner, said that an agreement on the issue of ERT had not been reached at the meeting. He also stated that his proposal, namely that ERT should start functioning again, that its former employees should return to work and that the reform of the media should proceed gradually, had not been accepted under these conditions. "It is not our fault that we have not been able to agree. However, we firmly support our position," said Fotis Kouvelis, without explicitly stating that he would withdraw the support of Democratic Left to the office.

A statement by Evangelos Venizelos, leader of PASOK, followed, dispelling the rumours that there might be early elections. He suggested that the government should change the way in which it was working and urged Democratic Left to reconsider its participation in the government. An hour later, a piece of information suggested that the Greek government would continue to involve New Democracy and PASOK.

In a statement made after midnight, Antonis Samaras said that he had done everything possible to be able to find a solution to the problem related to ERT and that it was about to be accepted but the leader of Democratic Left had refused to agree at the last moment. The Prime Minister defined the decision of PASOK to continue to support the government as bold and said that he was determined to fulfil its four-year term. Antonis Samaras called Fotis Kouvelis to reconsider his decision and to continue the involvement of Democratic Left in the office.

In the meantime, the Supreme Administrative Court had confirmed the decision it had taken on Tuesday, according to which the closure of ERT and the dismissals of employees are legal but the interruption of the signal is not. It was perceived as a solution to the crisis, but only temporarily. Then, the leaders of the smaller participants in the government coalition insisted that ERT should continue to operate until the creation of a new public television.

However, the closure of ERT was only the cause for the government crisis. According to sources, Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis had, at the meetings, accused the Prime Minister of ruling as if he was at the head of a single-party government. Several publications had appeared in the Greek media over the past few days, stating that the discord between the coalition partners could lead to early elections.

On the other hand, many commentators believed that this was speculation since neither of the two parties was interested in risking their political future.

At the same time, anonymous sources from the part of Greece's lenders have been warning for several days now that possible early elections and political instability will delay the tranches to the country without which its future is uncertain. They have been confirmed by the International Monetary Fund’s direct warning that early elections will mean suspension of the funding to Greece.

So far, it is not clear whether the Prime Minister will call for a vote of confidence from parliament. In all cases, however, it is expected that a major cabinet reshuffle will take place and the increased involvement of PASOK is more than certain this time.

Tags: PoliticsTriple coalitionEarly electionsGovernment crisisAntonis SamarasEvangelos VenizelosFotis KouvelisERT
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