Some hope that Greek coalition may emerge

Fri, May 11, 2012, 01:00

GREEKS WERE given more than a glimmer of hope last night that a coalition government may emerge from last Sunday’s election when the leader of the smallest party in parliament suggested he could back a coalition that would keep Greece in the euro zone.

“I propose the formation of a government of national unity, comprised of politically reliable persons, that embodies and respects the message of the election results,” said Fotis Kouvelis, leader of Democratic Left, after a meeting with socialist Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos.

The purpose of such a coalition, he continued, would be to “keep the country within the European Union and the euro zone”.

But it would also have to “begin a gradual disengagement from the [bailout] memorandum”, he added.

Mr Venizelos became the third leader to receive an exploratory mandate from the president after attempts by the leaders of conservative New Democracy and the Radical Left Coalition failed.

The Pasok leader described Mr Kouvelis’s “responsible and concrete” position as very close to his own, and said the meeting with the Democratic Left leader was a good omen.

“Mr Kouvelis’s proposals almost coincide with our own proposals for a government of national unity and for a permanent and safe exit from the memorandum . . . with Greece in the euro and for Greek citizens to be in a better and not worse condition,” he continued.

Democratic Left commands 19 MPs in the 300-seat parliament, and Pasok has 42.

The two parties would require the support of New Democracy, which has 108 seats, to form a government.

Mr Venizelos will meet Antonis Samaras of New Democracy and Alexis Tsipras of the Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) this morning.

Only slight differences can be detected in the approaches of Pasok and Democratic Left.

While Mr Kouvelis envisages the proposed government would complete its work by the European elections in 2014, Mr Venizelos has spoken of weaning the country off the memorandum by 2015, which would involve applying the terms of the bailout over three years instead of two.

Opinion polls say if new elections were held, Syriza would emerge as the largest party, with an 11-point improvement on its May 6th performance.

Syriza has said that Sunday’s election outcome has rendered Greece’s bailout commitments “null”.

The Marc/Alpha TV poll said Syriza would garner 128 MPs in any new elections, compared to 57 for New Democracy and 36 for Pasok.

The poll, conducted on May 8th and 9th, also found two in three voters wanted party leaders to form a coalition government.

Analysts say the surge in support for Syriza has focused minds of the three solidly pro-European parties on the pressing matter of forming a government.

“We could have seen this on Monday, when Mr Samaras had the mandate, but New Democracy, Pasok and the Democratic Left now fear that Syriza will come first in a fresh election. They are now doing their very best to prevent this scenario,” said George Tzogopoulos, of the Eliamep think-tank.