New elections looming for Greece

SYRIZA leader Tsipras fails to make headway as Samaras accuses him of putting euro membership at risk

The leader of Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Alexis Tsipras is due to meet the heads of PASOK and New Democracy on Wednesday but his slim chances of forming a unity government seem to have disappeared and Greece is likely to hold new elections next month.

Tsipras spent Tuesday, the first of three days he is permitted to try to form a government, in talks with leftist parties but had mixed success in convincing them to support his effort to form an administration that would challenge the terms of Greece?s bailout. However, the SYRIZA leader?s decision to set out certain terms for any cooperation, including the rejection of the loan deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, prompted a strong reaction from PASOK and New Democracy, which made it clear that there is hardly any ground for agreement.

SYRIZA won an unprecedented 16.78 percent of the vote on Sunday but would still need the support of either ND or PASOK to form a majority government. It has the option of forming an administration with just 120 MPs rather than 151 but the government would need to pass a vote of confidence.

Tsipras set out six terms for any agreement with other parties: immediate cancellation of the terms of the EU-IMF memorandum, the cancellation of the law that ends collective contracts, changes to the electoral system so proportional representation can be introduced, public review of Greek banks and the formation of a debt inspection committee that will investigate whether any of Greece?s debt can be termed ?odious.?

?The expression of the public?s will has made the memorandum null and void and has chosen as its first alternative a left-wing government that will cancel the loan agreements,? Tsipras said after meeting President Karolos Papoulias to receive the mandate for forming a unity government.

Kathimerini understands that Tsipras is to send a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to argue that the result of the elections, which saw the two signatories of the EU-IMF bailout, PASOK and New Democracy, receive just 32 percent of the vote, means that the terms of the bailout can no longer apply.

Tsipras also asked ND leader Antonis Samaras and PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos to write to the EU and IMF to inform Greece?s lenders that their written commitment to abide by the terms of the bailout could no longer stand because of the election result. This prompted Samaras to accuse Tsipras of risking Greece?s membership of the eurozone.

?Mr Tsipras, with his statements Wednesday, is doing everything possible not to form a government,? Samaras said, adding that the leftist was asking him to ?put my signature to the destruction of Greece.?

The conservative leader said his party would be prepared to back a minority government ?as long as it secures the country?s position in the eurozone and its national interest.? But, he said, the leftist leader?s statement left no doubt ?that he has no intention of safeguarding Greece?s European identity and future? and revealed ?unbelievable arrogance.?

Venizelos issued a statement saying that his position on keeping Greece in the euro was non-negotiable. Tsipras met Tuesday with Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis, who said he would support SYRIZA if it could form a majority government. The Ecologist Greens, however, rejected the leftists? overtures, arguing that SYRIZA did not have a clear plan for exiting the crisis.

It is expected Tsipras will be unable to reach any agreement by Thursday, leading to PASOK taking over the mandate to form a government. After that, Papoulias will call in the party leaders to try to broker a deal. If that fails, a caretaker government will be appointed and new elections called.