Greece: ERT shutdown sparks very serious cabinet crisis

One year after formation of current coalition

17 June, 14:02

    (by Demetrio Manolitsakis) (ANSAmed) - ATHENS, JUNE 17 - Exactly one year after elections in June 2012 led to the first coalition government in Greece's contemporary history, the leaders of parties supporting it - Premier Antonis Samaras, leader of the center-right Nea Dimokratia, Evanghelos Venizelos of Socialist Pasok and Foris Kouvelis, Democratic Left - will have to give their best in overcoming the most serious crisis so far over the premier's decision to close state broadcaster ERT and then reform it.

    There is no doubt Samaras' decision, caused by the need to give representatives of the troika - International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank - a list of the first 2.000 public employees to be laid off, was hasty and seriously damaged his international image. It also caused the immediate reaction of those who would be ready to back a sweeping reform of state television but not such a drastic measure.

    Backed by the latest surveys indicating his party would win in the event of new elections, Samaras has so far rejected calls from allies to withdraw the decree ordering the shutdown and to keep the broadcaster going while it is being reformed.

    Addressing the congress of Nea Dimokratia's youths, the premier offered a small opening saying that ERT could partially resume activities and suggesting the appointment of a commission charged with recalling a small number of employees to 'immediately' bring back to life news programmes. His allies however rejected the idea saying it doesn't differ much from the government's initial position. Moreover the premier can count on the fact that his allies don't have much negotiating power - though they claim not to be afraid of elections - as, according to surveys, would-be voters have indicated their support to be dangerously close to the 3% threshold necessary to enter parliament. Finally Samaras is counting on the fact that most people don't have a very high opinion of ERT. Proof of this is the fact that on Sunday, June 9 before the announcement of ERT's shutdown, a statement from radical left party Syriza's press office called it "the executive arm of government propaganda".

    But a few days later, on Thursday, June 13, its leader Alexis Tsipras said that the "closure of ERT is an attempt to shut up the freedom of expression".

    What most concerns Greek nationals is the image of a government which, instead of working to overcome divergences which are legitimate inside a coalition, is losing itself in a never-ending strong arm in which everybody is trying to gain a handful of votes without taking into account the fact that economic recovery requires much time and, almost certainly, more coalition governments. In addition, it looks like the three allies don't realize that soon they will have to confront much more complex issues - with a fiscal reform at the top of the list - requiring a stronger engagement from all, otherwise Greek nationals will have to witness yet another terrible performance enacted by the country's decision makers. And there is one more thing: most Greeks remember how, in a recent past, the only way to find employment in the public sector was to belong to a political party, and question the government's political will to really reform state television.

    Meanwhile, before knowing the outcome of a meeting of the three leaders in the government alliance tonight, many are awaiting a decision of the council of State on the legitimacy of the bill ordering ERT's closure after it was appealed by the national federation of ERT employees (Pospert). The consultative body's decision should be announced before the leaders meet and could solve once and for all the problem and avoid a far more serious crisis in Greece.(ANSAmed).

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