Greek PM clings to power amid increasing rancor

By Dina Kyriakidou ,Reuters

ATHENS — Greece’s embattled socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou is clinging to power after losing a deputy in the effort to impose a fresh wave of austerity on an angry public, but his grip is weakened by problems at home and abroad.

A shrinking parliament majority, street protests and lack of wider consensus are testing Papandreou’s resolve, as will any failure on the EU’s part to come up with a comprehensive solution to Greece’s biggest post-WWII economic crisis. Snap elections now would be disastrous for his ruling PASOK socialists, who won polls two years ago on tax-and-spend pledges and found themselves unprepared to deal with the debt crisis threatening to take down the euro and derail the global economy. “He won’t call a snap election unless he has to. He’ll stay on even if he loses two more deputies,” said Theodore Couloumbis of the ELIAMEP think tank. “He doesn’t want to be the leader who brought his party to second or even third place in one term.” Faced with a huge debt mountain and shut out of bond markets, Greece took international bailout deals in exchange for strict fiscal measures to avoid default. Foot-dragging has prompted lenders to ask for more belt-tightening, angering a public which says only the poor are paying for the crisis. Papandreou’s parliament majority was cut to 153 out of 300 seats late on Thursday, after he was forced to expel a senior party member and family friend for voting against part of a bill calling for EU/IMF prescribed wage cuts and tax hikes. As over 100,000 protesters screamed expletives at parliament, more and more Socialist deputies made clear it was the last time they were blindly voting for measures they did not believe in and asked Papandreou to form a multiparty government. “There won’t be a next time,” said PASOK deputy Sofia Giannaka. “PASOK voices saying it is impossible for a single-party government to impose future measures are multiplying.”