A looming political crisis in Greece over the shock shutdown of state broadcaster ERT comes to a head on Monday, with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras meeting his coalition allies to see if the government can survive.
Samaras, a conservative, has called a meeting for 1630 GMT with the leaders of the smaller socialist and moderate leftist parties in his coalition, who strongly oppose ERT’s closure and have demanded its immediate restoration.
The prime minister’s allies have urged him to back down, warning that the coalition could collapse if he persists with the ERT cull that has sparked an uproar in the country and criticism from media groups abroad.
Samaras on Sunday accused his coalition partners of “hypocrisy”, arguing that public service job cuts are part of austerity goals that are a government priority to maintain access to EU-IMF bailout loans.
“The elimination of 2,000 public sector jobs between now and June was signed up to by all the heads of the three parties of the governing coalition,” Samaras told a conference of New Democracy party officials.
“From where should we cut these jobs apart from the undeserving ERT … one of the bastions of obscurity and privileges?” he wondered.
Samaras on Friday offered to partially reopen the broadcaster with a slimmed-down news service to placate his critics, but his coalition partners rejected the proposal.
The government says it will compensate ERT’s almost 2,700 employees and has pledged to set up a new public broadcaster before the end of summer with less than half the original staffing levels.
Meanwhile, ERT employees have occupied the broadcaster’s offices in Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities since the closure was announced last Tuesday.
The ERT union has appealed to the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, to block the government order. A ruling is expected on Tuesday.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]