Greek coalition in disarray

Greece’s small Democratic Left party considers quitting ruling coalition.

Greece’s small Democratic Left party considers quitting ruling coalition.

ATHENS - Greece's small Democratic Left party could pull out of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's ruling coalition after talks to resume state television broadcasts collapsed, party officials said on Thursday, plunging the nation into fresh turmoil.

Lawmakers from the leftist party - which was angered by the abrupt shutdown of broadcaster ERT last week - will meet at 0830 BST on Friday to decide whether to continue backing Samaras, who in turn warned he was ready to press ahead without them.

"I want us to continue together as we started but I will move on either way," Samaras said in a televised statement, vowing to implement public sector reforms demanded by lenders.

"Our aim is to conclude our effort to save the country, always with a four-year term in our sights. We hope for the Democratic Left's support."

Samaras's New Democracy party and its Socialist PASOK ally jointly have 153 deputies, a majority of three in the country's 300-member parliament, meaning they could continue together, but a departure of the Democratic Left would be a major blow.

Officials from all three parties ruled out snap elections.

At least two independent lawmakers have also suggested they would back Samaras's government, which came to power a year ago and has bickered ever since over austerity and immigration.

The latest crisis began nine days ago when Samaras abruptly yanked ERT off air, calling it a hotbed of waste and privilege, sparking an outcry from his two allies, unions and journalists.

After initially refusing to restart ERT, Samaras on Thursday complained he offered to re-hire 2,000 out of 2,600 ERT workers who were fired, a compromise "courageously" accepted by the Socialist PASOK party but rejected by the Democratic Left.

"We will no longer have black screens on state TV channels but we are not going to return to the sinful regime," he said.

"At this point we had a serious disagreement over ERT. I undertook efforts to restore unity and to find a solution. I did not respond to nasty comments."

Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left, in turn attacked Samaras for failing to comply with a court ruling this week ordering ERT back on air and said the issue at stake was far bigger than state television broadcasts.

"This issue is not a formality, it's not procedural, it is fundamentally an issue of democracy," said Kouvelis, whose party has 14 lawmakers in parliament. "We are not responsible for the fact that no common ground was reached."

Evangelos Venizelos, leader of PASOK - which has heavily suffered from Greece's debt crisis and would lose further in a new election - also called on Kouvelis to stay in the coalition.

"The situation for the country, the economy and its citizens is especially grave," said Venizelos.

"We want the government to continue as a three-party government and we are asking Democratic Left to participate in re-establishing cooperation."