Greeks to head back to polls after talks fail

Greece is heading to new general elections after a last-ditch effort by Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday to form a government came to an impasse with the leaders of the five parties elected to Parliament (barring the Communist Party and Chrysi Avgi) failing to reach an agreement.

The breakdown of talks for a unity government or for an administration composed of non-political individuals following a fragmented result from general elections on May 6, means that Greece will have to appoint a caretaker administration until a date is set for a new round of elections.

Papoulias met with conservative New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras, left-wing SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras, right-wing Independent Greeks’ Panos Kammenos, socialist PASOK’s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left’s Fotis Kouvelis.

Asked about whether there will be more talks today or tomorrow, Kouvelis said, leaving the Presidential Palace: «It’s all over.»

Kammenos, who came fourth in the elections on a campaign based on scrapping the bailout deal with Greece’s creditors and departed from the Presidential Palace in an obvious state of annoyance, commented that «they [the heads of the so-called pro-memorandum parties] chose the country’s lenders over a national solution.»

He later accused Samaras of pushing for a second round of elections, «because he wants to become prime minister.» The PASOK leader, he added, «agreed on our seven points apart from rejecting bailout and unilateral default.»

New Democracy brushed off Kammenos’s comments as «laughable.»

Speaking later from PASOK’s headquarters, Venizelos suggested that some parties did not live up to expectations derived from their share of the vote, saying «some coldly put the interests of their party above the national interest.» He also urged all citizens to read the minutes of the two-hour meeting once they are published.

The five parties are split into two distinct but disparate camps, with New Democracy and PASOK insisting that Greece needs to conform to the terms of the bailout deal signed with its lenders, and SYRIZA and Independent Greeks — from opposite sides of the political spectrum — proposing a complete abolition of the memorandum despite fears that such a move could lead to Greece’s ouster from the euro area. Democratic Left has said that it will support any coalition of the two sides that ensures Greece’s position in the eurozone with better lending terms.

«There was no agreement between political forces,» Kouvelis said following the meeting.

«I assure Greeks that I did the best I could so we would not go to elections,» he said, adding that some parties had made a «political choice» to go to new elections in order «to serve their parties’ interests.»

No comment came from SYRIZA immediately following the meeting, though Tsipras had said on Monday that he would not shift from his position.

Papoulias is expected to meet with the party leaders again on Wednesday in order to appoint a caretaker government.