Greece's laborious power-sharing talks disintegrated into chaos Wednesday, with political leaders failing to name a new prime minister who will take over from George Papandreou and head an interim government despite three days of torturous negotiations.
The latest hitch in more than a week of political turmoil came less than an hour after Papandreou made a televised address to the nation saying Greece's political parties were joining together to save the debt-ridden country from rapidly approaching bankruptcy.
The crisis erupted last week, when Papandreou said he would put a hard-fought €130 billion ($177 billion) European debt deal to a referendum — horrifying European leaders, battering international markets and sparking a rebellion within his own party, with lawmakers accusing him of endangering Greece's bailout.
In response, Papandreou withdrew the plan for a popular vote and agreed to stand aside and hand over to an interim government whose main aim will be to secure a vital €8 billion ($10.9 billion) installment of bailout loans and approve the debt agreement.
But after a historic deal with conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras Sunday night to form the transition government, negotiations dragged on, missing self-imposed deadline after deadline. Repeated pledges to announce a new prime minister came to nothing despite intense European pressure to quickly resolve the crisis.
A final decision had been all but certain Wednesday night, with Papandreou delivering a farewell televised speech to the nation in which he wished his successor — although he did not name him.
"Today the main political forces are joining together, to guarantee to Greece's citizens that in the following months we will do whatever is necessary not only to secure the country's position in the euro and implement the (debt deal) decisions ... but also to make use of its great benefits," he said.
"I want to wish every success to the new prime minister and the new government. I will stand at their side and will back this national effort to the utmost of my ability."
But less than an hour later, the president's office was calling a new meeting for power-sharing talks for Thursday, and a final deal seemed as far away as ever.