June 22, 2012
Starving Greeks queued around the block for free food handouts yesterday as the country's politicians managed to end a crippling stalemate to form a coalition government.
Young children as well as the elderly waited in line in Athens to collect the parcels of fruit and vegetables donated by farmers from Crete to help ease the devastating austerity faced by many Greeks.
But as hungry people collected food, a few miles away a new conservative-led alliance was formed, vowing to renegotiate the country's strict European bailout in a bid to breath economic life back into the debt-stricken country.
Lifeline: Hundreds of poverty-stricken Greeks are queuing for free vegetable handouts as politicians finally agree to form a coalition government
Desperate: An elderly lady, left, and a woman, accompanied by her son, carries a box of vegetables as thousands of Greeks and foreign immigrants line up during a free vegetables
Despair: Pensioners joined the lengthy queues behind barriers in Athens where people were waiting for a free food handout
Hungry: Greeks line up for the food handouts, donated by Crete's farmers
Conservative Antonis Samaras was sworn in as prime minister and head of a three-party coalition that will uphold the country's international bailout commitments.
In the hot seat: New Prime Minister Antonis Samaras vowed to rescue Greece's economy as he spoke for the first time after being sworn in to office at the presidental palace
The move ends a protracted political crisis that had cast grave doubt over the country's future in Europe's joint currency and threatened to plunge Europe deeper into a financial crisis with global repercussions.
Samaras, an American-educated 61-year-old economist, was sworn in three days after his party won the second national elections in six weeks but without enough votes to form a government on its own.
His New Democracy party will join forces with the socialist PASOK party, which came in third place, and the smaller Democratic Left led by Fotis Kouvelis.
Discussions on the lineup of ministers were expected to be completed by Wednesday night.
‘I will ask the new government that will be formed tomorrow to work hard so that we can offer tangible hope to our people,’ Samaras told reporters as he left the presidential mansion.
Greek stocks rose marginally in response to the news, with Athens shares closing up 0.5 percent, limiting earlier gains.
The new prime minister was to meet with outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Zanias, PASOK head Evangelos Venizelos and Kouvelis on Wednesday evening.
All three parties broadly back Greece's pledges to bailout creditors for further austerity and reforms, although they have pledged to renegotiate some of the terms for the rescue loans.
Vow: Antonis Samaras, right, crosses himself during a swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace as at the background Greek president Karolos Papoulias looks on
Deal: Greek conservative leader Antonis Samaras, left, shakes hands with Greek President Karolos Papoulias, center, as Greece's Orthodox Archbishop Ieronimos looks on after a swearing in ceremony at the Presidential palace in Athens
Ceremony: Newly elected Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, right, bows in front of Ieronimos, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, during a swearing in ceremony
New Democracy and PASOK are also looking for an extension of at least two years in the deadlines for implementing fresh cutbacks worth a total 14.5billion euro ($18.42 billion).
Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis went a bit further today, saying that Greece should eventually ‘disengage’ from the austerity commitments and ‘lift those measures that have literally bled society.’
Greece has been dependent on the loans from other Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010. In return, it has imposed deep spending cuts, slashed salaries and pensions, and repeatedly hiked taxes.
The measures have left the country struggling through a fifth year of recession, with unemployment spiraling to above 22 percent and tens of thousands of businesses shutting down.
The face of the crippling poverty gripping the country was plane to see as hundreds of poverty-stricken Greeks queued in a central Athens park for free vegetables.
Misery: A young mother with her two daughters carries away a box full of vegetables to help feed her family in the debt-stricken country