The chaos and turmoil in Greece continues unabated.
In a day of stunning changes and about-faces, the principal opposition leader in the Athens government has asked Prime Minister George Papandreou to resign.
According to a report in Reuters, Antonis Samaras, chief of the New Democracy party, has demanded that snap elections take place within six weeks.
Earlier, Papandreou agreed to cancel plans to convene a referendum on the latest Eurozone rescue deal for Greece, reportedly on the understanding that the opposition would endorse the bailout package.
There were also confusing comments coming out from Papandreou regarding his political future. Early Thursday, he reportedly agreed to step down in favor of a new coalition government. Then later he appeared to backtrack on that promise after opposition parties agreed to the rescue package (thereby negating the need for a referendum).
Papandreou had told members of his ruling socialist Pasok party: If the opposition is willing to negotiate then we are ready to ratify this deal and implement it.
Apparently, Papandreou is now rejecting overtures from both opposition figures and members of his own Pasok party to step down.
Moreover, during a rambling speech delivered to the Greek Parliament, Papandreou appeared again to support a referendum (contradicting what he said earlier).
Instead, warning that rejecting the referendum would lead to catastrophe for Greece; he urged bi-partisan support for the rescue pact. He also said that calling snap elections amidst the deepening crisis would also be foolhardy
However, while many lawmakers (both opposition and Pasok) are calling for new elections, Papandreou’s finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, remains adamantly opposed to the referendum.
Mark Urban, a correspondent for BBC’s Newsnight, commented: “The last 24 hours have seen all manner of political gyrations here. If one had to sum up what it has all meant, it is that the government of George Papandreou has felt the heat from Europe's most powerful players and realized that it cannot take it. The prime minister seems to have realized that either he, or his plan to put the European Union's bailout package to a national referendum, will have to go. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday characterized Mr. Papandreou's proposed vote as a game of poker, and she was evidently determined that he should blink first.”