Papendreou may resign in exchange for opposition support of austerity measures

Frankly, the Greek prime minister doesn't have a political leg to stand on. Even if he wins a narrow vote of confidence today, his political capital is shot - even with his own party.

So the word is that he has already agreed to resign and call for early elections in exchange for the opposition supporting the draconian austerity measures that the EU and the IMF are demanding to get Greek back to surer financial footing.


On Thursday New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras dropped his opposition to the bailout, which is being pushed by Papandreou's PASOK party, on condition that a short-lived coalition government is formed to take the country to polls.

That means the two main forces in Greek politics now back the deal, despite the new wave of austerity it demands -- on top of budget and pension cuts and tax rises which have pushed the economy into recession and brought Greeks on to the streets in sometimes violent protests.

However, in the fractured world of Greek politics this does not ensure the package will win rapid parliamentary approval.

Samaras made Papandreou's stepping down a condition for forming a coalition to quickly pass the bailout through parliament and cancel the referendum. Papandreou told parliament he was not tied to his post.

"Papandreou must get on a helicopter and leave the country," said Marios Pomonas, 55, a lawyer. "He has disgraced the country but all he cares about is himself and his office."

"Samaras is arrogant. Those two can't work together," he added, echoing many on the streets of Athens on Friday.

Through waves of austerity policies demanded by Greece's international lenders, Papandreou has carried the parliamentary group of his PASOK party with him, despite much grumbling within the ranks.

It's like Greek politicians are trying to take cover from the firing squad by lining up behind one, scrawny tree. Neither party wants responsibility for what's coming. The only way forward is if both parties join hands and jump over the cliff together.

The Greek people may not get a referendum to make their feelings known directly. But if there are elections soon, I suspect a "throw the bums out" attitude to dominate.