Greece: Junior coalition party to withdraw ministers from government

ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s fragile coalition government was left reeling Friday after a junior party decided to pull its two cabinet ministers from the cabinet following a dispute over state broadcaster ERT.

Democratic Left party officials said the ministers of justice and civil service reform would resign from the 17-member cabinet of ministers within the day. Two of the party’s deputy ministers were also preparing to resign, the officials said.

It was not immediately clear whether the party would continue to support conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government in parliament.

A party statement said it would continue to pursue an “agenda of reform” — implying that it would extend limited support to the government.

Samaras’ three-party coalition currently has 167 seats in the 300-member parliament, including the 14 lawmakers from the Democratic Left. The government would be left with a slim working majority of just three lawmakers if the Democratic Left withdrew its support.

Socialist coalition party Pasok says it will remain in Samaras government.

Civil Service Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis announced the news of the Democratic Left’s cabinet withdrawal following a four-hour emergency meeting.

The crisis in Greece saw the country’s borrowing costs spike Friday, while shares on the Athens Stock Exchange were 3.2 per cent lower.

The interest yield on the country’s benchmark 10-year bond — an indicator of investor confidence in a country — spiked 0.80 percentage point Friday to 11.35 per cent — the highest in 2013. Meanwhile, shares on the Athens Stock Exchange were down nearly 3 per cent midday Friday.

Samaras’ coalition parties failed to resolve the dispute over broadcaster ERT following three meetings this week after the high court ruled the decision to close it unlawful.

Greece has been relying on 240 billion euros ($316.8 billion) in bailout loans from the other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund for the past three years. The country has had to introduce harsh austerity measures demanded by rescue creditors, which have deepened the country’s recession.

Samaras’ ordered ERT’s closure on June 11, shutting off its signal and firing nearly 2,700 employees as the country embarks on a second stage of painful cuts likely to focus on reducing the size of the public sector.

Debt inspectors have suspended a review of Greece’s public finances amid the political crisis, while the IMF warned Thursday that loan payouts could be affected if that review does not restart soon.

If Greece falls further into political crisis, it could miss some of its agreed bailout targets, which could force the creditors to withhold paying out the next tranche of loans.

“I love Greece but I’m very much looking forward to a Eurogroup press conference where Greece is not going to be discussed and a summer where we don’t have any Greek crisis,” said the EU’s top economic official, Olli Rehn said Thursday night at the closing of a meeting of euro finance ministers.

“I want to appeal to the sense of responsibility of political leaders in Greece,” he added.