As shock waves ripple through the Greek parliament, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is standing by his decision to pull the plug on public broadcaster ERT.
There are fears the country may well be on its way to an early election, if coalition parties cannot reach agreement about ERT’s closure.
“You decided and commanded to silence the state television, tarnishing both democracy and freedom of speech. Such things happen on only on two occasions, minister: only when there is a foreign invasion of the country or when there is a collapse of democracy,” said the Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras.
But Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras defended the move:
“It is going into the workshop, so it can come out repaired, clean, and without scandal. I would like to remind you what you said on May 18, you said then that it was a channel of a dictatorship government, a channel of bailout propaganda. I think today you are crying crocodile tears Mr President of Syriza.”
The decision to shut ERT triggered widespread protests and strikes around the country.
Our correspondent in Athens Stamatis Giannisis says:
“The decision to close ERT down has caused the biggest rift so far to the less – than – a – year – old coalition government. If the three party leaders cannot strike a deal over the future of the public broadcaster on their Monday meeting, many political observers in Greece feel that the chances of an early general election will increase dramatically.”