Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Greece’s biggest anti-bailout party Syriza, turned down an appeal by political leaders to join a unity government that would avert a new election amid mounting concern of a euro exit.
“I want to underline that the refusal of this proposal isn’t coming from Syriza, but from the Greek people themselves,” Tsipras said in Athens today, in comments televised live on state-run NET TV. “The people have already rejected the bailout so no government has the right to implement it.”
Tsipras’s refusal to participate in a government that would group two pro-bailout parties with his own and the smaller Democratic Left party dims hopes of avoiding another round at the ballot-box, which polls show may catapault Syriza into first place. The onus is now on President Karolos Papoulias to try and broker a government of national unity.
Greece’s political impasse since the inconclusive May 6 election has raised the possibility another vote will have to be held as early as next month, threatening the implementation of austerity pledges. The standoff has reignited European concerns over Greece’s ability to hold to terms of its two bailouts negotiated since May 2010 and sparked concerns about the country leaving the euro.
Evangelos Venizelos, the socialist Pasok leader, hosted the talks today after receiving the third and final mandate to form a government yesterday. He will see Papoulias to hand back the mandate tomorrow.
The unity government proposal by Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis had received backing from Venizelos and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, underpinned by the two main principles of keeping the country in the euro region and renegotiating bailout conditions to boost growth.
“We are fighting to form a government and there are still hopes for this,” Samaras told his lawmakers after the meeting in comments televised live on NET TV. “If there are elections, which I repeat there shouldn’t be, the dilemma for voters then will be whether we stay in Europe and the euro.”
Kouvelis, whose party holds 19 seats in the 300-seat parliament, said the unity government would last until 2014 and would have a specific agenda to negotiate a gradual “disengagement” from bailout austerity measures. He said that a condition for Democratic Left joining the government was the participation of Syriza.
New Democracy and Pasok, the two parties that supported the international rescue in an interim government earlier this year, are two deputies short of the 151 seats needed for a majority in the 300-seat chamber. Syriza came second with 52 seats, and Pasok placed third with 41 seats. Five parties opposed to bailout policies are now in parliament.
Tsipras failed to reach a deal with other leaders after giving them an ultimatum to renounce support for the EU-led rescue in order to enter the government. Samaras, whose party finished first, gave up trying to forge a coalition after six hours of talks on May 7.
Tsipras demanded that Samaras and Venizelos, the former finance minister, send a letter to the EU revoking their written pledges to implement austerity measures. Both rejected the request, with Samaras saying he was being asked “to put my signature to the destruction of Greece.”
-- With assistance from Tom Stoukas, Jonathan Stearns, Antonis Galanopoulos and Eleni Chrepa in Athens, Jana Randow, Zoe Schneeweiss and Boris Groendahl in Vienna. Editors: Kevin Costelloe, Andrew Davis
To contact the reporters on this story: Maria Petrakis in Athens at email@example.com; Natalie Weeks in Athens at firstname.lastname@example.org; Marcus Bensasson in Athens at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Quinson at firstname.lastname@example.org; Jerrold Colten at email@example.com