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Greece's deputy prime minister is retiring

By Demetris Nellas
Associate Press / March 24, 2012
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ATHENS, Greece—Greece's deputy prime minister, who made headlines by saying that ordinary citizens are just as responsible as politicians for his nation's economic crisis, announced Saturday that he will not seek re-election.

An early election is expected in May, and Theodoros Pangalos, 73, a veteran socialist lawmaker, told state TV channel NET he won't compete in it.

He also predicted that his party and the conservative New Democracy, which leads in opinion polls, will both fail to win an outright majority.

True to form, the outspoken Pangalos said he does not think the two coalition partners -- his socialists and the conservatives -- will be able to continue ruling together to pull Greece out of its worst economic crisis in several decades.

"The two biggest parties are proving that they cannot govern together, even if a large portion of the decisions they will have to make is prescribed" by the two loan agreements Greece has signed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Pangalos said.

Asked if the politicians whose policies nearly bankrupted the country will manage to take it out of its current predicament, Pangalos said: "Of course not. That's why I am retiring."

Widely known as a brilliant but mercurial man, who clashed with political friends as well as opponents, Pangalos became a lightning rod for disaffected Greeks who have tended to blame politicians for all their woes during the past two years.

"We devoured (the money) together," he had said when the extent of the crisis became apparent, meaning that ordinary citizens as well as politicians were to blame for the profligate state and that many had profited from widespread corruption.

His words caused a huge outcry and are still used against him and politicians in general. Pangalos, who is tall and overweight, has been verbally and physically attacked, with critics throwing yogurt at him in public.

Outwardly, Pangalos has appeared unfazed by the criticism and blamed his critics for undermining democracy. "We live in a state of terror by minorities," Pangalos told NET TV. "The Constitution and several basic laws have, in effect, been abolished."

Pangalos has been a legislator since being elected to Parliament in 1981, and has held many portfolios, including minister of European affairs, transport, the foreign office, and culture.

He became deputy prime minister in the socialist government of George Papandreou in October 2009 and continued in the current governing coalition.

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