Fearing political crisis, Greece plots escape from bailout

Fri Sep 26, 2014 9:39am EDT
 
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By Lefteris Papadimas and Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - Four years after a messy descent into emergency funding to stave off bankruptcy, Greece's government is trying to pull the plug on a deeply unpopular bailout program to secure its own survival.

Under growing pressure from anti-bailout leftists, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras desperately needs a new narrative to get the backing of lawmakers in a crucial presidential vote next year and rally Greeks fed up with four years of austerity.

It is a gamble with high stakes for the Greek economy and Athens' relations with its euro zone peers. Failure by Samaras to get his presidential nominee elected would trigger new polls that his anti-austerity rivals would almost certainly win.

In Berlin earlier this week, Samaras for the first time publicly acknowledged that Athens hoped to wean itself off a 240-billion-euro ($305-billion) EU/IMF aid package a year before its scheduled end in early 2016.

He offered no details, but Athens is calculating that declaring an end to the reviled bailout could be just the political game-changer it needs, with the end of bailout funding from the European Union in December offering a logical moment to seal the exit of the International Monetary Fund as well.

"It makes political sense, completely 100 percent," a source familiar with the discussions said. "The IMF is not pushing to leave, the government is pushing for it."

Pulling this off, however, will almost certainly require Athens to notch up rapid-fire successes on several fronts - a swift end to its current bailout review, securing debt relief and the backing of European partners for going it alone.

In addition, forgoing over 12 billion euros in IMF loans and finding its own financing, just two years after a sovereign debt restructuring, remains a risky bet.   Continued...

 
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addresses a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin September 23, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch