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Analysis: Papandreou gamble: reckless or selfless?

Analysis: Papandreou gamble: reckless or selfless?

It was either a reckless gamble or statesman's selfless masterstroke.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou goes into confidence vote Friday with his job and legacy on the line, still bathing in the near universal scorn triggered by his shock announcement of a referendum on Greece's new European debt deal.
Papandreou's bombshell cratered markets, rendered EU leaders apoplectic, and triggered a furious rebellion at home.
Some observers accused Papandreou of gross irresponsibility.
But as the dust settles, and it appears the recalcitrant opposition has been shocked into openly backing the new debt deal, it's just possible he may have pulled off a coup.
By forcing the nation to take a hard look at the disaster it will face if the rescue is dropped, with almost certain expulsion from the eurozone and a catastrophic run on Greek banks, Papandreou has possibly achieved what once seemed impossible: a semblance of unity over the country's direction.
The prime minister hinted at as much when he spoke of the "positive shock waves" coursing through his country. Suddenly, the opposition declared it had always considered the new, week-old debt deal "inevitable" _ indicating they would back it.
This week may have been the one in which Greece collectively peered into the abyss _ and decided that brutal cutbacks were better than near-certain ruin.
Finally, Papandreou has what amounts to a public pledge by opposition leader Antonis Samaras to back the new debt deal _ albeit with the caveat that Papandreou stand down, a caretaker government be formed and elections called within weeks.
But at what price?
Sooner or later Papandreou's job as prime minister, almost certainly. And if Papandreou had both the selflessness and clear-sightedness to realize his gamble could save his nation at the price of his job and reputation, the history books may be kinder to him than this week's commentary has been.
However, it's also possible Papandreou simply felt he'd run out of options.
After two years of harsh spending cuts and tax hikes, Papandreou faced an increasingly belligerent public on the streets, a rapidly decreasing parliamentary majority and a conservative opposition refusing any form of cooperation.
Perhaps, as many have suggested, it was all just a moment of reckless folly.
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Elena Becatoros is the southeast Europe bureau chief for The Associated Press.


Updated : 2021-04-16 11:37 GMT+08:00