Greek PM calls for referendum on constitution

June 19, 2011 - 7:13 AM
Greece Financial Crisis

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, right, talks to Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos at the Parliament in Athens, Sunday, June 19, 2011. Opening a three-day parliamentary debate that will culminate in a confidence vote late Tuesday, Papandreou blamed Greece's bloated state sector for bringing the country to its knees and has vowed to effect deep changes. (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou called on Sunday for a fall referendum on "changes to the political system," including to the country's constitution.

Opening a three-day parliamentary debate that will culminate in a confidence vote late Tuesday, Papandreou blamed Greece's bloated and inefficient state sector for bringing the country to its knees and vowed to effect deep changes.

He also said the constitutional revision will make it easier to prosecute delinquent government officials.

"I ask for a vote of confidence because we are at a critical juncture...the debt and deficits are national problems that have brought Greece into a state of (diminished sovereignty) that may have protected us from bankruptcy, but which we need to get out of," Papandreou said.

European donors and the International Monetary Fund are requiring Greece to pass austerity measures before releasing the next euro12 billion ($17 billion) loan from a euro110 billion package agreed on last year to keep Greece afloat until it it can get its struggling economy back on track.

Papandreou told parliament Greece is also in talks for a new bailout package "roughly equal" to the first package agreed to in May 2010.

He said the original package's projection that Greece would be able to borrow from the markets in 2012 had been disproved, but said this was not the fault of his government, which had done all it was required to, passing painful measures and reducing the deficit as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent in 2010.

Instead, he blamed ratings agencies, tax havens, "derivatives speculators" and the media, which have spread panic and discouraged potential investors.

Opposition leader Antonis Samaras called for early elections and said Papandreou's referendum proposal was an evasive maneuver masking his inability to govern.