What happens next
Antonis Samaras, leader of the largest party, New Democracy, failed to form a government yesterday on the basis of an exploratory mandate from President Karolos Papoulias.
Consequently, Papoulias will today pass the exploratory mandate, valid for 72 hours, to Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Radical Left Coalition (Syriza), now the second party.
If Mr Tsipras is unsuccessful, Evangelos Venizelos of Pasok will be handed the mandate.
The mandate stops there. If these attempts come to nothing, the president will summon all party leaders to try to form a government with a parliamentary majority.
If this fourth attempt fails, the president will try to form a caretaker government, whose sole responsibility will be the calling of elections.
If all those fail, Papoulias may appoint the president of one of the country’s top three courts as an interim prime minister to head a caretaker cabinet. It would then prepare for fresh elections, possibly in mid-June. The last time this happened was in October 1989, when supreme court head Yannis Grivas was appointed after elections produced a deadlocked parliament. However, the fresh elections he oversaw failed to produce a stable government and Greece held its third general election in less than a year.
DAMIAN MAC CON ULADH