Greece’s drama on the international stage continued on Friday as a confidence vote, scheduled for later in the day, could end its prime minister’s career whatever its outcome. Sources in Athens said that George Papandreou, acknowledging that his call earlier in the week for a referendum on the country’s newest bailout was a mistake, had agreed to step down even if he won. However reports on the matter vary and Papandreou may yet remain.
According to a Reuters report, Papandreou insisted at first that he would not resign, but was convinced otherwise during a Cabinet meeting. He agreed that, provided he won the confidence vote, he would remain long enough to negotiate an agreement with the opposition party and then step down. An anonymous source was quoted saying, “He was told that he must leave calmly in order to save his party. He agreed to step down. It was very civilized, with no acrimony.”
However, a report in The New York Times details the back-and-forth of Papandreou’s maneuvering. Antonis Samaras, leader of the opposition, has consistently voted against every measure related to the current and previous bailouts, although he denies that he opposed the deals and says instead his opposition was directed at the governments handling of them.
After Papandreou’s call for a referendum, Samaras conceded that he would back the loan arrangement. Only then did Papandreou abandon the referendum. He was quoted saying, “The question was never about the referendum but about whether or not we are prepared to approve the decisions on Oct. 26. What is at stake is our position in the EU [European Union].”