ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek far-right leader George Karatzaferis refused on Friday to support his own government by backing a tough EU/IMF international bailout, and a state news agency said his party’s ministers had offered to resign from the coalition.
Karatzaferis launched a furious attack on Germany for trying to dominate the troubled nations of southern Europe, and accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of playing poker with Greece’s future.
The semi-official Athens News Agency said ministers from Karatzaferis’s LAOS party, the smallest in the three-party coalition, had submitted their resignations and it was up to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to decide whether to accept them.
With elections due as soon as April, Karatzaferis said his party could not vote in parliament for a rescue which demands a heavy price in wage, pension and job cuts - breaking ranks with Papademos and leaders of the much larger socialist and conservative parties in the three-month-old government.
“I explained to the other political leaders that I cannot vote for this loan agreement,” he told a news conference.
“We were robbed of our dignity, we were humiliated. I can’t take this. I won’t allow it,” said Karatzaferis, a one-time body builder, modeling agency owner and radio broadcaster.
LAOS, which has slipped in the polls since it joined the government last November, has 15 deputies in the 300-seat Greek parliament. This means it cannot prevent the 130 billion euro bailout from being passed when parliament votes, possibly on Sunday or Monday, unless there is major dissent in the other parties.
Karatzaferis tried to tap into discontent with Germany, which would fund much of the bailout but has taken a tough line on the need for the Greeks to accept hard austerity measures.
“The European Union is suffering under Germany,” he said. “Germany decides for Europe because it has a fat wallet and with that fat wallet it rules over the lives of all the southern countries.”
“Decisions aren’t taken in Brussels but from a tower in Berlin, from where Merkel cooperates with her satellite countries, Netherlands, Austria, Finland and, unfortunately, also Luxembourg.”
He accused Merkel of playing a dangerous game of poker.
“Greece can’t go bankrupt... If Greece falls, it will drag many countries with it, in the end even the whole of Europe... Ms. Merkel has a pair of fives and pretends she has four aces.”
Karatzaferis also asked for a government reshuffle and a cabinet of technocrats.
He added that the International Monetary Fund’s top official for Greece, Poul Thomsen, should be banned from the country.
“If we want things to go forward, Poul Thomsen must be declared persona non grata for Greece,” he said.
Additional reporting by Tatiana Fragou and Harry Papachristou; editing by Tim Pearce