Greek election results reveal austerity no longer valid, says Syriza leader

Wed, May 9, 2012, 01:00

THE OUTCOME of Sunday’s general election is that Greece’s commitments to austerity are no longer valid, the leader of the country’s second largest party has said, in comments widely perceived as drawing the battle lines for a new election campaign.

“The popular verdict clearly renders the bailout deal null,” said Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Radical Left Coalition (Syriza), shortly after receiving a 72-hour exploratory mandate to form a government from the country’s president.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Tsipras, whose attempt to create a government is almost certain to end in failure, said voters at the polls had flatly rejected the pro-memorandum stance of conservative New Democracy and socialist Pasok.

“The bailout parties no longer have a majority in parliament to vote for measures that plunder the country. There will be no €11 billion of additional austerity measures; 150,000 jobs will not be cut,” he said, adding he was only prepared to work with New Democracy and Pasok in government if their leaders sent a letter to Brussels reneging on their written support for the bailout programme.

Syriza came a surprise second in Sunday’s election, garnering 16.8 per cent of the vote and landing 52 seats in the 300-member parliament. New Democracy took an 18.5 per cent share but 108 seats, thanks to a 50-seat bonus awarded to the first party. In third place was Pasok, on 13.2 per cent, which took 41 seats.

Mr Tsipras’s turn to form a government came after the New Democracy leader, Antonis Samaras, failed in his attempt after a few hours on Monday. The leftist leader said he intended to use the full 72 hours availableto try to produce a government.

As he commenced exploratory talks with party leaders yesterday, Mr Tsipras said his proposal for a left-wing government rested on five planks: an end to pension and salary cuts; an end to measures undermining labour rights; abolishing the immunity enjoyed by MPs against prosecution and reforming the electoral law; state oversight of the country’s banks; and the establishment of an international committee to determine how much of the country’s debt is onerous and a moratorium on all debt-servicing until the committee reports.

Mr Tsipras’s call sent stocks reeling further at the Athens stock exchange, whose general index ended up at their lowest level since November 1992.

Banks completed a two-day decline of 21.1 per cent, fuelled mainly by comments from a Syriza MP, Dimitris Stratoulis, that private bank deposits could be used by a Syriza-led government “for growth and a productive restructuring of our country”.

New Democracy lashed out at Mr Tspiras, accusing him of paving the way to Greece’s exit from the euro zone.

“Listening to Mr Tsipras, we realised that he has no intention of guaranteeing Greece’s European identity and future. He is simply interpreting, with unbelievable arrogance, the election result as a ‘mandate’ to lead the country into chaos,” Mr Samaras said.

Although Mr Tsipras secured the support of the 19 MPs of the Democratic Left for his left-wing government idea, the Communist Party rejected his overtures, saying Syriza’s proposals disguised the reality of the “anti-popular attack by the monopolies”.

Most analysts believe that no government can emerge from the new parliamentary dispensation and that fresh elections in June are inevitable.