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Outgoing Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speaks during his televised address to the nation in Athens on Nov. 9, 2011. (Vasileios Filis/AFP/Getty Images)
Outgoing Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou speaks during his televised address to the nation in Athens on Nov. 9, 2011. (Vasileios Filis/AFP/Getty Images)

European debt crisis

Greek drama turns to farce over political manoeuvring Add to ...

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou went on national television Wednesday evening to announce that a new interim government had been formed.

But he did not name his successor, and in the hours that followed, it became clear that political disarray had set in once more. Mr. Papandreou’s resignation was not announced, nor was the interim government named. By early evening, the president’s office said that there would be no announcement before Thursday.

Television provided glimpses of some of the drama. Giorgos Karatzaferis, the leader of the small, far-right party LAOS, stormed out the presidential office building shortly after Mr. Papandreou’s speech. He told waiting reporters that he had been summoned to a meeting with Mr. Papandreou, the president and the leader of the opposition party New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, but found himself sitting in a hall alone. Apparently, the other men were too busy arguing to meet with him.

Mr. Karatzaferis, one of the few politicians willing to risk the potential damage from supporting a new power-sharing government whose main aim will be to secure the next vital $11-billion (U.S.) instalment of Greece’s current bailout, said political games were being played.

“This is unacceptable,” he said before leaving.

After months of domestic protests and building pressure from the European Union, Mr. Papandreou agreed Sunday to step down once political negotiators had established a new unity government. But the talks have dragged on since, beset by nearly constant reverses and overshadowed by political manoeuvring in advance of new elections.

Before the Prime Minister’s speech, Greek news reports said he was about to announce he was handing the reins to Filippos Petsalnikos, the speaker of the parliament and a stalwart of Mr. Papandreou’s socialist party, PASOK.

But the choice caused consternation – some said a mini-revolt – among the more reform-minded, mostly younger members of both parties. Mr. Petsalnikos has been in parliament for more than two decades and has held a number of ministerial posts, largely without distinction.

Some PASOK members appeared to push publicly for another candidate, Lucas Papademos, a respected economist and former vice-president of the European Central Bank who is seen as being a dynamic and technically able choice.

But his strength makes him a potential rival for those who have aspirations in the next elections, analysts said. In addition, Mr. Papademos had set several conditions for taking the job, including a six-month term and the ability to choose his own finance minister, which had troubled some members of both parties.

Many of the younger politicians are eager for someone who will make quick progress in getting the country’s financial house in order. One prominent member of PASOK, Anna Diamantopoulou, the Minister of Education, issued a letter Wednesday that was widely interpreted as public support for Mr. Papademos.

“The country needs a prime minister of high status and acceptance, both inside and out of the country, with deep knowledge of financial affairs,” she wrote.

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