ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s president will meet with political party leaders today 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 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 Thursday. In practice, precedent shows that talks could take two or three days, George Katrougalos, a professor of constitutional law, told the AP. It is also possible that an impasse could be reached today.
If Papoulias fails to form a coalition, Greece will have to hold new elections next month, 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 May 6 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 $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.
Syriza leader Tsipras, whose party made massive gains to come second in the May 6 election, campaigned on an anti-bailout platform and insists any new government must cancel the austerity measures. Both Venizelos and Antonis Samaras, head of New Democracy, said his policies would force Greece out of the EU’s joint currency, something that none of the political leaders say they want.