Greece faces new polls as government talks fail

Greece faces new polls as government talks fail

Greece faces new polls as government talks fail

Greek political leaders meet at the presidential palace in Athens for the latest round of talks on forming a new government to discuss a presidential proposal for a technocrat administration to resolve differences over an EU-IMF debt bailout. REUTERS photo

Greece will have to hold fresh elections, after after days of talks failed to resolve the country’s political deadlock, socialist PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos said.

“We are going again towards elections, in a few days, under very bad conditions,” Venizelos said. A statement from the president’s office noted simply that efforts to form a government had failed. The talks failed on insurmountable differences over the tough EU-IMF debt bailout accord, after inconclusive May 6 elections saw Greeks largely vote against the austerity measures which Athens agreed to in return for the aid.

President Karolos Papoulias has called a meeting for 10:00 a.m. today, with an all-party interim government running the country until fresh elections, expected on June 10 or 17. Five of the parties that won seats in the inconclusive polls on May 6 went into yesterday’s talks to discuss a presidential plan for a technocrat administration to resolve differences over the EU-IMF
debt bailout.

‘Technocrat government’

Papoulias called the meeting after talks on May 14 with the conservative New Democracy, PASOK and radical Democratic Left parties failed to reach an accord on a coalition government. He suggested that in the absence of any other solution, a government of “distinguished and non-political figures” should be considered to defuse an impasse over the tough austerity measures agreed to in the EU-IMF bailout. Forming such a government would have avoided new polls and helped keep Greece in the eurozone, but time was very short. Parliament convenes tomorrow and new polls have to be called if there is no government in place by then. Included in yesterday’s talks were leaders of the Independent Greeks party and the radical left Syriza, which came second on May 6 on its pledge to scrap the austerity policy, if not the whole EU-IMF deal. The polls produced no clear winner and showed that a majority of Greeks opposed the austerity measures that many feel are making the problems worse, reflecting increasing calls across Europe that the focus needs to be on growth. Papoulias told yesterday’s meeting that time was running out for Greece, adding, “I am terrified at the idea of the problems facing the country” in the coming days.

The head of the Eurogroup group of eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, said, “I don’t envisage, not even for one second, Greece leaving [the eurozone].” He added, “This is nonsense, this is propaganda.” The Eurogroup “will do everything possible” to prevent a Greek exit and has an “unshakeable desire” to this end, he said.

EU Economy Commissioner Olli Rehn said Greek political leaders carried a grave responsibility at “this very critical juncture.” he said, “The future welfare of Greece and its citizens lies more than ever on the shoulders of the Greek politicians to keep their part of the solidarity pact.”

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.