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Greek Prime Minister Papandreou To Step Down


The political drama in Greece now turns to who will govern that economically troubled country. Prime Minister George Papandreou has vowed to the opposition's demand that he step down to make way for a coalition government. The idea is that a government of national unity can steer Greece through austerity measures and save a bailout deal that's widely seen as the country's last chance. The new premiere is expected to be named today. Joanna Kakissis joined us from Athens with the latest. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Well, first of all, is there any word on who the new prime minister of this caretaker government might be?

KAKISSIS: Well, the Greek media reporting that it will likely be Lucas Papademos. He's a former vice president of the European Central Bank, and he's an internationally respected economist. He's also served as an economic advisor to George Papandreou.

He was educated at MIT and now he teaches at Harvard, and he happened to turn down the post of finance minister last summer when there was a government reshuffle, because he thought that it was too partisan and it was too heated. But now with the stakes so much higher in Greece, what the media's reporting here, is that he may be convinced to join.

MONTAGNE: Well, the main opposition party has been very critical of the current and soon to be former Prime Minster, Papandreou. Would they embrace this candidate that you're talking about and what would their role be in the new government?

KAKISSIS: Well Antonis Samaras, who leads the main opposition New Democracy Party, has never voted for any bailout deals and he's punished deputies who have. He has a very acrimonious relationship with Papandreou who's actually his former college roommate at Amherst. He's called Papandreou a liar. He's blackmailing Greece. And until Sunday he's refused to even talk about a coalition government unless Papandreou resigned.

Many commentators were saying he was trying to position himself as a savior so his party could win elections in February when they're supposed to be held. But as far as his thoughts on Papademos, he's always been very supportive of Papademos as an economist. He's been very complimentary of him. And he didn't seem to have any strong reactions to him as a possible choice, according to his insiders.

Again, we won't know until later what Samaras really thinks, but at this point he seems to have backed down on everything. He now supports the bailout agreement even though he has spent the last, you know, essentially the last two years saying no way. At the key, like everyone else, says OK, I guess the country's got to stop committing slow motion suicide and we all have to work together.

MONTAGNE: And so this coalition government, what will, and in fact, what can it do?

KAKISSIS: Well it's essentially existing to safeguard the latest bailout deal which was agreed upon on October 26th and which offers a major write down of Greek debt and additional loans. But those austerity measures that everyone hates, they have to be implemented.

And if Papademos indeed becomes the head of that government he is going to be very focused on implementing these measures. It will probably last until February. I mean, that's when new elections will be held. And after that, you know, who's going to win? Will there be another coalition government and who's going to be the prime minister? Some of the same questions remain.

MONTAGNE: Joanna Kakissis, thank you very much.

KAKISSIS: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Joanna Kakissis joined us from Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.