By Christine Pirovolakis –
ATHENS (dpa) — Greece’s parliament was formally dissolved and fresh elections called on Saturday — a day after politicians in Athens reacted angrily to an alleged suggestion by the German chancellor that a referendum should be held asking whether Greeks want to stay in the eurozone.
A presidential decree formally dissolved the short-lived 300-seat parliament elected on May 6 and called an election for June 17.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has denied widespread reports that she suggested a referendum on the eurozone should be held at the same time as parliamentary elections, during a telephone call with Greek President Karolos Papoulias earlier on Friday.
Nevertheless, Greek politicians rejected the suggestion angrily, with many saying it was an inappropriate attempt to interfere in domestic affairs.
“The issue with Merkel is over and we now look forward to the next meeting in Brussels on May 23,” said Greek interim Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikramenos.
The June elections are an effort to end political deadlock. May 6 elections failed to produce a majority government and political parties then failed to form a ruling coalition.
Pikramenos, 67, the head of the Council of State, was appointed Wednesday to lead a 16-member caretaker cabinet, which will see Greece through to the next election.
The cabinet, made up of university professors, diplomats and former ministers, will only have administrative functions and will not be able to take any internationally-binding decisions.
The political vacuum has raised fears of a possible Greek exit from the eurozone, since Athens needs to make new budget cuts next month to receive its next tranche of bailout money from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.