Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Monday called for a confidence vote and a referendum to approve last week’s EU summit deal that slashed the country’s mountain of debt by nearly a third.
6:35PM GMT 31 Oct 2011
“The plan of initiatives calls for a confidence vote,” Papandreou told his Socialist party lawmakers in parliament, moments after he had also announced a referendum would also be held on the EU deal.
“The command of the Greek people will bind us,” he said.
“Do they want to adopt the new deal, or reject it? If the Greek people do not want it, it will not be adopted,” the prime minister said after protests were held around the country last week against his government’s austerity policies.
Papandreou, who has 153 deputies in the 300-seat parliament, has faced increasing dissent within his own party over the hardening austerity policy monitored by the EU and the International Monetary Fund that has sparked general strikes and widespread protests, many of them violent.
Public anger showed itself again around the country on Friday as parades were held to mark Greece’s wartime resistance to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
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President Carolos Papoulias walked out on a military parade in the northern city of Thessaloniki when hecklers in the crowd labelled him a ‘traitor’ and other officials in other cities were also insulted.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos indicated the referendum was also hastened by political opposition at home to last week’s EU deal, which is designed to cut Greece’s debt load of over 350 billion euros by around 100 billion euros.
“Even such a deal is placed in question by some,” Venizelos told parliament, arguing that something had to give so that progress could be made.
The deal was only reached after months of haggling in marathon talks last Thursday and besides the Greek debt reduction included measures to bolster the banking system, help other struggling eurozone member states and boost the size of the bloc’s bailout funds.
In Greece, many people believe the country has gone too far in allowing the EU and IMF to dictate economy policy in return for two bailout deals which have cost several hundred billion euros so far.