Greeks to vote on debt deal

Greece is to hold a referendum on the new European debt deal reached last week.

Prime Minister George Papandreou gave no date or other details of proposed referendum.

The deal aims to seek 50% losses for private holders of Greek bonds and provide the troubled eurozone member with €100bn euro in additional rescue loans.

Mr Papandreou told Socialist members of parliament he would seek a vote of confidence in parliament.

His Socialist government has seen its majority reduced to just three seats in parliament and its approval ratings plummet amid harsh austerity measures that are likely to send the country into a fourth year of recession in 2012.

Mr Papandreou appeared to take many lawmakers by surprise by saying that a hard-bargained agreement that took months for Europe’s leaders to hammer out will be put to a public ballot.

It would be the first referendum in Greece since 1974, when the monarchy was abolished by a landslide vote months after the collapse of a military dictatorship.

“This will be the referendum: The citizen will be called upon to say a big ’yes’ or a big ’no’ to the new loan arrangement,” he said. “This is a supreme act of democracy and of patriotism for the people to make their own decision ... We have a duty to promote the role and the responsibility of the citizen.”

The move allows Socialist lawmakers – who have faced months and months of strikes, sit-ins and violent protests over rounds of austerity measures – to pass the responsibility for the country’s fate to the Greek people themselves.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the referendum was called after opposition parties repeatedly failed to side with the government in negotiations between Greece and other eurozone members.

“It is very clear: The new agreement will be submitted to parliament for approval and then submitted to the judgment of the Greek people ... the Greek people can of course say ’no’ but must bear in mind the consequences of that decision,” he said.

Mr Venizelos indicated the referendum would be held early next year, after weeks of complex negotiations to finalise details of the new agreement.

Opposition parties accused the government of calling the vote to save its teetering government, threatened by growing dissent from Socialist dissenters.

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