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Referendum dead as Greece PM faces crucial vote

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Referendum dead as Greece PM faces crucial vote


Will some clarity emerge from the chaos in Greece? At the end of a week that has yo-yoed between tragedy and farce, parliament will stage a crucial confidence vote in the government later on Friday night.

Prime Minister George Papandreou is fighting for his political life. Facing a potential party revolt, he has done a humiliating about-turn on his idea for a referendum on the international bailout. Now his finance minister says the plan is dead.

The main opposition leader Antonis Samaras has dropped his opposition to the bailout, on condition that a short-lived coalition government is formed ahead of early elections.

The rest of the euro zone is watching nervously.

“We respect Greek democracy and Greece’s right to decide on its own future. At the same time we need Greece to demonstrate commitment to decisions that it has itself subscribed to,” said the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. “National unity is key… it’s really needed to have a strong commitment of the main political forces to solve the current difficulties.”

Some in Athens are embarrassed by the saga being played out while the world looks on.

“These are ricidulous acts by a ridiculous government… nonsense,” said one man. “They’ve gone back on a referendum. There should never have been the idea of a referendum. There should have been a call for elections leaving decisions in the hands of the people. Beyond that, nothing is important.”

Despite the climbdown on a referendum, it is far from certain the prime minister will survive the confidence vote. The government’s majority is just two; the opposition is insisting that Papandreou step down. Some observers say he may be seeking a dignified exit.

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