Prime Minister George Papandreou’s surprise call for a referendum on the new austerity measures demanded by last week’s eurozone “deal” caught everyone off guard, including his own finance minister. Analysts immediately accused Papandreou of seeking political cover for the increasingly unpopular increased austerity measures to be imposed as a condition for the next insertion of funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in two weeks. Knowing that citizens would likely vote against the measures if given the chance, the PM could then pass the blame for failure onto the citizens, leaving himself and his party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), absolved from blame as the new measures failed.
With polls showing 60 percent of the populace opposed to further measures, George Kristos, a political analyst, said that “Papandreou could not take any more political punishment … All parties and all [the] media criticize the government, so Papandreou, in a sense, tried his best to do the referendum to force the parties, the media and the citizens to undertake their own responsibility. The referendum [would be] a yes or no issue: Either you are in favor, or you decide that you say goodbye to the eurozone.”
One of those citizens, Akis Tsirogiannis, a 42-year-old father of two who recently lost his job, said “The government is no longer in control, others are calling the shots.…” He added,
This deal, like all the others, is a life sentence of austerity for Greeks. The country is being run from the outside — by bankers and European Union government [officials]. We need to reclaim our country, whatever that entails.
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Photo of Prime Minister George Papandreou: AP Images