Greece’s chances of forming a unity government that would negate the need for new elections were hanging by a thread on Sunday night after a long day of talks between President Karolos Papoulias and party leaders foundered on disagreements between the groups.
Papoulias saw Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis late last night in the final meeting with the heads of parties that were elected to Parliament in the May 6 polls. Kouvelis could hold the key to the formation of the new government as he put forward a format that both New Democracy and PASOK have approved.
Kouvelis’s proposal is for parties to combine their forces in a unity government that would aim to keep Greece in the euro, draw up a plan for its gradual decoupling from the European Union-International Monetary Fund loan agreement and which would remain in place until 2014, when European Parliament elections will be held.
Democratic Left, which received 6.1 percent of the vote last on May 6, has insisted that it would only join a government with New Democracy and PASOK if the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which surged to 16.8 percent in the elections, also took part.
“Participation is the key,” Democratic Left MP Dimitris Chatzisokratis told Skai TV. “Another issue is the personalities that would be appointed in such a government.”
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras came under pressure during his meeting with ND chief Antonis Samaras and PASOK head Evangelos Venizelos earlier on Sunday when the three politicians held talks chaired by Papoulias. Sources said that Venizelos and Samaras asked Tsipras to either join a unity government or to at least give it a vote of confidence.
PASOK and ND have just under the 151 seats needed for a parliamentary majority. A coalition with the Democratic Left would raise this to 168 seats, but the three parties are worried their administration would lack political legitimacy without SYRIZA’s participation. There is also concern that as an opposition party, SYRIZA would seek to capitalize on the anti-memorandum sentiment in Greece.
Tsipras rejected the appeals for his party to join the others during the 90-minute talks and later accused the three parties of looking for an accomplice. “They are not just asking SYRIZA to agree, they are asking it to be complicit in crimes and we will not do that,” he said.
Tsipras said he asked Papoulias to publish the minutes of the meeting so “citizens can draw their own conclusions.”
He accused PASOK and ND of ignoring the outcome of Sunday’s elections, which dealt their parties huge losses and elevated SYRIZA to second place.
“The parties that governed us not only have failed to heed the message from the elections, they are also blackmailing us,” he said. “Their demands for SYRIZA to take part are unprecedented and illogical.”
SYRIZA’s stance led to Samaras and Venizelos accusing the leftists of blocking any attempt to form a viable government.
“I made very effort to form a government but SYRIZA does not want to listen to the mandate from the Greek people,” said Samaras. “I honestly don’t know where they are going with this,” he added.
“Mr Tsipras told us that holding new elections would not be a disaster,” said Venizelos. “Despite the impasse during the meeting with the president of the republic, I maintain some hope that a government can be formed. But despite that, we are preparing for new elections,” Venizelos told party members.
Papoulias also met with Panos Kammenos, the head of the Independent Greeks, Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga and Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) leader Nikos Michaloliakos on Sunday night. None sought a part in a unity government. Papariga said she expected Greece to head to new elections.