Greece's attempts to create coalition founder


HOPES THAT Greece’s political leaders could form a government from the fractured aftermath of last Sunday’s election had almost evaporated last night as the final round of talks failed to break the political deadlock.

Emerging from the final meeting that could have produced a deal, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the anti-memorandum Radical Left Coalition (Syriza), said he would not join any government arrangement.

“The memorandum has been already rejected by the people. No government of any shape has the right to implement it,” Mr Tsipras said, ruling out any co-operation with the conservative New Democracy party, socialist Pasok and the moderate Democratic Left. Mr Tsipras made the comments after a meeting with Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos, the third party leader to have received an exploratory, cabinet-forming mandate to form a government by the country’s president.

Mr Tsipras came under intense pressure yesterday after a consensus emerged between these other three parties that they needed Syriza’s involvement in any government arrangement.

“Syriza’s participation is a condition because of the need for a fair distribution of the responsibility to deal with the national crisis we face,” said Mr Venizelos, after the meeting. “I told Mr Tsipras that an improvement in a party’s election performance also means it faces greater responsibility.

Arrogant behaviour, petty party designs and keeping an eye on upcoming elections are not suited to the critical nature of these times.”

In the absence of any last-minute surprises, Mr Venizelos is expected to return his mandate to the president at 1pm today.

The failure of the leaders to find a solution among themselves will mean that the president will convene a meeting of all party leaders in a last-ditch attempt to provide the country with a government of national unity.

If he fails to convince the party leaders to form an administration, he will use his constitutional powers to appoint a caretaker executive to organise elections, which can be expected in mid-June.

The demand that Syriza would have to feature in the proposed unity government came early yesterday morning from the Democratic Left, the small moderate party that on Thursday night indicated it would be willing to enter a three-way coalition with New Democracy and Pasok.

“We have made our position clear. We will not take part in a government with [only] New Democracy and Pasok,” the Democratic Left leader, Fotis Kouvelis, said. Observers attributed the sudden turnaround to the fact that that the leftist party faced being torn asunder if it went ahead in a deal with the two pro-memorandum parties.

According to political scientist and pollster Christoforos Vernardakis, the party’s 19 MPs were evenly divided on the coalition proposal, with “much opposition” among the party’s small membership base to the idea.

Mr Venizelos also held a meeting yesterday with Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, the largest party in parliament. Speaking afterwards to his MPs, Mr Samaras said in any new election, his party would challenge head on what he described as Syriza’s “left anti-European front”.

“The problem is that Syriza won second place but cannot manage its responsibility. The day after the election, it had to admit it had no programme. They do not understand how the banking system works or how important the lifeblood of the economy – liquidity – is,” Mr Samaras said.

With opinion polls showing Syriza at 27 per cent and certain to secure first place in fresh elections, New Democracy and Pasok are likely to increase their attacks on it in an effort to stem its meteoric rise in popularity.