Democratic Left MPs convene as gov’t teeters [UPDATE]

A crisis meeting of MPs from the government’s junior coalition party Democratic Left (DIMAR)was underway on Friday to determine whether the junior member of the coalition would remain in the shaky administration following a breakdown of coalition talks over the controversial closure of state broadcaster ERT last week.

Of DIMAR’s 14 MPs, two or three were said to disagree with the apparent desire of their leader Fotis Kouvelis to withdraw from the government. Still, it appeared that the junior party would withdraw from the coalition, leaving Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos to continue as a two-party administration with a wafer-thin majority of 153 in the 300-seat Parliament.

Greek media reported that most DIMAR MPs were in favor of the party withdrawing its ministers from the government.

The breakdown occurred after a third round of crisis talks between the three coalition leaders on Thursday night amid reports of a serious rift between Kouvelis and Samaras over the number of ERT employees who would be hired to staff a transitional broadcast service.

“No common ground was found” on the issue of ERT, Kouvelis said late on Thursday, adding that ERT’s restructuring must be carried out with the broadcaster open. “For us it is an issue of democratic legitimacy,” he said.

Venizelos indicated that he would stick with the government and Samaras insisted that he would continue with or without Democratic Left.

In a related development, the Council of State ruled on Thursday night in favor of the government’s closure of ERT but said the state broadcaster’s signal must be restored. Its ruling was a response to an appeal by POSDEP, the union representing dismissed ERT workers against the conservative-led government’s decision to pull the plug on ERT.