Samaras Defies Coalition Partners in Greek State TV Showdown

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras defended his decision to shut down the country’s public ERT broadcaster, setting the stage for a showdown with the two parties that support his year-old government.

The “announcement should have been made years ago,” Samaras said in a speech in Athens yesterday. “We will restore true public television with the most radical reform in the Greek media sector. We have already submitted the law to Parliament.”

He didn’t publicly respond to appeals earlier from both Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left’s Fotis Kouvelis, for a meeting to better coordinate government policies and to reopen the state-run broadcaster while it is overhauled.

A government official who asked not to be identified said Samaras would call his two coalition partners today to arrange a meeting in the coming days.

The June 11 decision to close the broadcaster, with the loss of 2,600 jobs, drew anger from unions and threatens to undermine his government a year after the coalition was formed in the wake of two inconclusive elections.

The two junior coalition parties earlier submitted a law to parliament to revoke Samaras’s decree shutting down ERT. Venizelos told his lawmakers in Athens that Pasok doesn’t want elections “but it doesn’t fear elections.” Pasok’s 28 deputies provide Samaras with the majority he needs in Parliament to pass laws. His New Democracy has 125 seats in the 300-seat house.

Elections Responsibility

“Samaras is undertaking the responsibility of leading the country to elections,” Democratic Left’s spokesman Andreas Papadopoulos said, in a first reaction to Samaras’s speech.

Bonds and stocks dropped on the reappearance of political turmoil in Greece. The yield on Greece’s 10-year bond climbed 35 basis points to 10.37 percent yesterday as Greece’s benchmark ASE Index fell 3.2 percent, extending this week’s slump to 12 percent.

Samaras became Greece’s fourth premier in eight months last June, after his New Democracy party joined forces with the socialist Pasok, which finished third, and sixth-place Democratic Left, ending a period of political limbo and fear the country would leave the euro area that began with an inconclusive May 6 election.

Unions called a 24-hour strike for today that will disrupt flights, public transportation and government services. Journalists are continuing a strike that began yesterday for a second day, leaving the country in a media black hole.

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