NEWS

Venizelos to try forming a gov?t

Socialist leader to take the baton after SYRIZA chief fails to get other parties on board a leftist coalition

The leader of socialist PASOK, Evangelos Venizelos, is on Thursday expected to get a shot at forming a government after efforts by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) chief Alexis Tsipras appeared to have hit a wall late last night.

Venizelos, whose party ranked third after SYRIZA in Sunday?s early elections, said after talks with Tsipras on Wednesday that he would ask President Karolos Papoulias to give him a mandate to explore coalition possibilities, indicating that negotiations with the leftist leader had failed to yield a compromise. ?I will receive the mandate from President Karolos Papoulias tomorrow and continue the national effort,? Venizelos said. ?We can?t reach a solution now but we will keep trying,? he added.

The Socialist leader, who asked Tsipras to participate in a broader unity government, emphasized the importance of politicians looking beyond party concerns at such a critical time for the nation. Greeks primarily want ?stability and government so that the country is not led once again to elections,? he said.

Tsipras, for his part, said he would hand in his mandate, noting that ?the dream to form a leftist government was not realized.? Despite this failure, he said, his party had succeeded in bringing a sea change to the political scene with foreign creditors now more open to renegotiate the bailout?s onerous terms. ?We have forced all of Europe to speak about the great change brought about by the Greek vote,? he said.

In Brussels and in Berlin, sources said, European officials reiterated their desire to support Greece through its debt crisis and safeguard its position in the eurozone but also emphasized that the decision was ultimately in Greek hands.

?If Greece wants to remain in the eurozone, there is no better solution than the path it has already taken,? said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Commenting on the demand for austerity measures in return for rescue loans, the minister remarked, ?You can?t have one without the other.?

Tsipras had demanded on Tuesday that Venizelos and conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras revoke their signatures on Greece?s debt pact with its creditors. Both leaders rejected his proposal -- Venizelos more diplomatically, by counterproposing a broader unity government, and Samaras more vehemently, by accusing Tsipras of putting the country?s solvency and future in the eurozone in jeopardy.

?He is asking me to accept Greece?s exit from the eurozone and the country?s bankruptcy,? Samaras said in a televised statement issued after the two men?s talks. ?I am not prepared to do that,? he said. Earlier in the day, the conservative leader had been even sharper-tongued, saying that he hoped Tsipras would ?regain his senses? before their meeting.

Samaras?s tough stance opposite Tsipras was being interpreted as an attempt to cast the leftist leader as an enemy of the urban class ahead of a second round of elections. Earlier Samaras had appealed to ?center-right forces? to collaborate to secure Greece?s future in the EU.

Tsipras also met on Wednesday with the leader of nationalist party Independent Greeks, Panos Kammenos, who also campaigned against Greece?s debt deal. Kammenos, a former conservative MP, stated the obvious after the talks: that the anti-bailout parties do not have the necessary majority to form a government.

?SYRIZA?s 52 MPs, Independent Greeks? 33 and Fotis Kouvelis?s 19 do not add up to the minority of 120 seats needed in view of the Communist Party?s refusal,? he said, referring to the Democratic Left leader. Kammenos added that he had discussed ?issues of national importance? with Tsipras, including a bilateral row over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the issue of illegal immigration. He said there were ?differences of opinion.?

Online