Last-ditch bid to form coalition after socialist leader hands back mandate to Greek president

 

Greece's president will meet with political party leaders on Sunday in a last-ditch effort to broker a deal for a coalition government and avoid another general election.

Karolos Papoulias took the step Saturday after socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos officially gave up the mandate to form a coalition government after three rounds of negotiations proved fruitless

Papoulias' office announced that the president would meet initially with the heads of the three parties that won the most votes in last Sunday's inconclusive elections — the conservative New Democracy, radical left-wing Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) and socialist PASOK. He will then meet individually with the leaders of the other four parties that won enough votes for parliamentary seats — the right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks, the Communists, the extreme-right Golden Dawn and the moderate left Democratic Left.

The format was designed to bring everyone to the table, as Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras had threatened to boycott the talks rather than sit at the same table with Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos.

In theory, the president's talks with the party leaders could drag until the scheduled date for the opening of the new parliament, on May 17th. In practice, precedent shows that talks could take two or three days, George Katrougalos, a professor of constitutional law, told the Associated Press. It is also possible that an impasse could be reached Sunday.

If Papoulias fails to broker a coalition agreement, Greece will have to hold new elections next month, most likely on June 10th or 17th, prolonging the political uncertainty and bringing Greece's euro membership into question.

Venizelos was the third party leader to try to cobble together a governing coalition after elections last Sunday gave no party enough parliamentary seats to form a government. Voters furious at two years of harsh austerity measures taken in return for international bailouts worth (euro) 240 billion ($310 billion) rejected Greece's two formerly dominant parties, Venizelos' socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy, in favor of smaller parties on the left and right.

The turmoil has alarmed Greece's international creditors, who have stressed that the country must stick to the terms of its rescue deals if it hopes to continue receiving the funds that have been keeping it afloat since May 2010.

Whether Greece should adhere to the strict austerity measures required for the bailout loans or pull out of the deal has been at the heart of the wrangling over creating a coalition government.

Syriza leader Tsipras, whose party made massive gains to come second in Sunday's election, campaigned on an anti-bailout platform and insists any new government must cancel the austerity measures. He argues the terms are so onerous that they are giving the country's battered economy no chance of recovery.

But both Venizelos and Antonis Samaras, head of New Democracy, have slammed Tsipras' position as irresponsible. They say his policies would lead to disaster and force Greece out of the European Union's joint currency — something that none of the political leaders say they want.

Hopes had been raised that a solution could be found in the form of a partnership between New Democracy, PASOK and the smaller Democratic Left party of Fotis Kouvelis, whose 19 seats put it in a potential kingmaker position. But all three parties have insisted they cannot join forces without the support of Syriza, given its strong performance in the elections.

Handing back the mandate to the president, Venizelos said that, while there had been a meeting of minds between his party, Democratic Left and New Democracy, Tsipras was sticking to his position.

The latest opinion poll, published Saturday in weekly financial paper "O Kosmos tou Ependyti" (Investor's World) confirms the recent trend showing Syriza overtaking New Democracy. The poll estimates — by excluding declared don't knows and those who refuse to answer — that Syriza will win 25.5 percent in a new election, up from 16.8 percent it actually polled on May 6. New Democracy follows with 21.7 percent, up from 18.9 percent, and the socialists would gain 14.6 percent, up from 13.2 percent. The Independent Greeks would get 10.5 percent, marginally lower than the 10.6 percent they got at the election. The poll projected losses for the Communists (5.3 percent from 8.5 percent) and Golden Dawn (4.8 percent from 7 percent).

Even if the results of the poll were to be confirmed, Syriza does not get enough votes to form a government on its own, although it would benefit from regulations that give the first party a bonus of 50 seats in the 300-member parliament, putting it in the dominant position to seek coalition partners among other anti-bailout parties.

AP

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam