Prime Minister George Papandreou wrestles with his biggest leadership dilemma

November 2, 2011

When a leader’s actions seem irrational, it’s time to look for the toughest decision that has to be made

The tumultuous events in Europe’s financial markets took a turn for the worse as Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou appeared to agree the refinancing plan in Brussels and then appeared to destroy it in returning to Athens.

What’s his biggest dilemma?

Ekathimerini suggests he faces political extinction if he goes along with the EU plan, and maybe political extinction if he rejects it:

A day after calling for a referendum on whether Greece should adopt the debt deal it agreed with its eurozone partners last week, Prime Minister George Papandreou faced a fight for his political survival as he came under intense pressure from within his own party and from opposition politicians to ditch the idea and call snap elections or form a coalition government.

The prime minister appears to have challenged the ministers who disagree with him to bring his government down in Friday’s vote. Sources said that Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis expressed objections to the idea of holding a referendum.

The first setback ahead of Friday’s ballot was dealt when Socialist deputy Milena Apostolaki said that she was quitting PASOK’s parliamentary group to become an independent. She referred to the referendum proposal as “wrong and divisive.” Her decision reduced the government’s presence in the 300-seat Parliament to just 152.
A further blow to PASOK’s majority before the vote cannot be discounted but even if the government survives Friday’s ballot, Papandreou’s referendum proposal will have to be put to another vote in Parliament. Again, a simple majority would be needed but it seems unlikely that the government would be able to garner even this.

The referendum and vote of confidence

Severe internal pressures for him to resign meant that he had to find some action to fight for his political life. If he could only find some way of showing he was on the side of the Greek people and their ancient commitment to democracy that has been so troubled from time to time. How about a referendum?

Creative leadership?

Perversity? Duplicity towards his EU partners? You could even say it’s a creative move in a desperate position. And like chess, the political game can drag on into a stalemate where there is no win/lose outcome, but everyone escapes with something to show for their efforts.