Greece on Edge
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|John Zimmer||May 11th 2012|
From RFE and Agencies
Greece's socialist leader, Evangelos Venizelos, says efforts to form a coalition government have failed. Venizelos, who was the last of three party leaders to try to reach an agreement, said he would hand the mandate back to President Carolos Papoulias on May 12. He made the comments after meeting with Alexis Tsipras, whose antiausterity Syriza party came second in last weekend's election. Tsipras said he would not join any government that intended to continue implementing the terms of Greece's international bailout agreement. The May 6 inconclusive elections have boosted the standing of antiausterity parties, which want to abolish Greece's bailout deal with the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Athens must pass new austerity measures worth 14.5 billion euros by June in order to qualify for the next installment of the bailout. New elections would have to be called in June.
EU president Herman Van Rompuy meanwhile called on Greece's political leaders to make responsible decisions to resolve the country's debt crisis. Van Rompuy, on a visit to Denmark, said he was "concerned about the situation in Greece" and appealed "to the sense of national responsibility, of all political leaders."
Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos made his announcement Friday after the Radical Left Coalition, or Syriza, refused to join the Socialists and conservatives due to a disagreement on the country's economic austerity program. The Socialist and conservative New Democracy parties have proposed a gradual phasing out of the tough measures imposed by the European Union and IMF in exchange for a bailout loan. The leftists want them canceled immediately. If there is no lasting agreement by May 17, new elections will be called.
“Arrogance and petty party politics with a view towards elections are not suitable at this critical moment. Even if elections are repeated, what is going to change from this attitude? Nothing. The moment of truth is here for everyone. I will inform the president tomorrow afternoon. I hope everybody shows maturity and responsibility in consultations with the president.'' Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said the Greek people voted against the austerity measures imposed by the European Union and IMF, and that their will cannot be ignored. “It is not the Left Coalition that has refused this proposal, but the Greek people who did so with their vote on Sunday.''
Greek voters punished both the Socialists and New Democracy for having pushed through the tough economic austerity measures in return for huge international loans to avert bankruptcy. Venizelos is the third Greek leader who tried and failed to form a government after the inconclusive election Sunday. Earlier Friday, Venizelos met with the leader of the Conservative Party, Antonis Samaras, for talks on a coalition government. Another possible ally, the small Democratic Left party, said it would not join a government made up only of Socialists and the conservative New Democracy party that did not include Syriza.
President Karolos Papoulias is expected to call on parties to form an emergency coalition to govern until new elections are held. New Democracy won the most parliamentary seats in Sunday's election, followed by the Radical Left and the Socialists. But no party won enough seats to be able to put together a new government on its own. Syriza leader Tsipras had called on the two parties to renounce their support for the deep spending cuts but could not get enough support in parliament to hammer out a coalition. European Union leaders are pressuring Greece to carry through with the austerity plans. Germany warned Friday that Greece will get no more money without reforms and that the euro zone can survive if the cash-strapped country leaves Europe's 17-member currency union.