More than a week after elections brought anti-austerity parties to the fore in Greece, efforts to form a coalition government remained deadlocked as first one, then another of the parties were unable to broker a compromise. Now the task is in the hands of President Karolos Papoulias, who thus far has been as unsuccessful as the party leaders themselves. The result could be a departure from the euro zone for the troubled country.
Bloomberg reported Monday that Papoulias was rebuffed by Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, who on Sunday rejected Papoulias’ efforts to form a government and who has said he will not attend a meeting of party leaders called by the Greek president for late Monday.
Tsipras has said that he will not take part in a coalition government unless the leaders of Pasok and New Democracy, the other two biggest winners in the May 6 election, agree to abandon the latest austerity measures prescribed by the troika of the European Union (E.U.), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for a second bailout. In statements, Tsipras said, “Syriza won’t betray the Greek people,” and “We are being asked to agree to the destruction of Greek society.”
When it was Tsipras’s turn to try to form a government, he demanded that Pasok and New Democracy leaders abandon in writing their commitment to the conditions imposed by the troika. They refused.
Although last week Pasok and New Democracy reached agreement with a third, smaller, party, Democratic Left, to form a government that would last till 2014 and would keep Greece in the euro zone while renegotiating the bailout terms, the deal falls apart without Syriza and Tsipras. Democratic Left has said that in order for the agreement to succeed, Syriza must participate.
Tsipras is in favor of Greece remaining in the euro zone, but is firmly opposed to the bailout with its attached austerity, and has challenged the three parties to go ahead and try to govern without Syriza.
“The three parties that have agreed on the policy framework for a two-year government to implement the memorandum have 168 lawmakers in the new parliament,” Tsipras was quoted saying. Parliament has 300 lawmakers altogether. “They have the majority so let them proceed. Their demand for Syriza to join their planned agreement is illogical.”
So the push to form a government has been punted back to the Greek president. Should Papoulias be as unsuccessful as the party leaders have been, Greece will have no choice but to call new elections. That could result in an outright victory for Syriza, which has gained in the polls since Tsipras refused to compromise.