Greece’s crisis talks fail to yield Cabinet

Greece’s crisis talks fail to yield Cabinet

Greece’s crisis talks fail to yield Cabinet

Greek Socialist Party leader Venizelos (L), leader of the New Democracy Party Samaras (2nd L), leader of Syriza Tsipras (R) meet with Greek President Papoulias in Athens. AFP photo

Critical last-ditch talks to form a coalition government in crisis-hit Greece floundered once more yesterday, taking the country one step closer to a new round of elections.

Karolos Papoulias met initially with the heads of conservative New Democracy, radical left Syriza and socialist PASOK parties, who finished in the top three positions in elections last week that left no party with enough votes to form a government. Then, he met with the heads of smaller parties that won enough votes to gain parliamentary seats, including the head of the extremist right-wing party Golden Dawn.Greece’s Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos said he felt “limited optimism” after talks. Venizelos told party cadres that the talks with conservative leader Antonis Samaras and radical leftist leader Alexis Tsipras came to a “dead end,” indicating that hopes now fall on the cooperation of a smaller pro-European leftist party.

New Democracy leader Samaras said separately that Syriza, which strongly opposes the EU-IMF bailout deal signed by Greece, had refused to join or back a coalition government, even if it pledged to “renegotiate” the loan agreement. “I made every effort to secure universal cooperation,” Samaras told reporters. “Syriza not only refuses to accept the formation of a viable government, but also to give a vote of tolerance to a government that would renegotiate the terms of the loan agreement,” he said. Venizelos, Samaras and Tsipras had met with Papoulias for 90 minutes. Also, a row erupted after Tsipras accused Democratic Left, a smaller leftist party, of agreeing to form a coalition with New Democracy and PASOK. Democratic Left, which has been asking for Syriza to be included in any new coalition, denied any such agreement. On its website, the party accused the Syriza leader of a “slander and a lie.”

Polls show Syriza leading

Tsipras has been buoyed by opinion polls which show his party would likely come in first in new elections, although it would not win enough seats to form a government on its own. A poll published by To Vima newspaper yesterday showed Syriza would win 20.5 percent of the vote, less than the 28 percent an earlier opinion poll published May 10 gave him, but still well ahead of New Democracy. To Vima’s poll, carried out by Kappa Research, showed New Democracy in second place with 18.1 percent and PASOK losing yet more votes to reach 12.2 percent.

Week-long negotiations have so far failed to produce a result. Papoulias’ mediation to broker a deal could in theory continue until May 17, the scheduled opening date for the new parliament, although they are expected to end sooner. If no agreement is reached, Greece will have to hold new elections next month, most likely on June 10th or 17th.

The country’s international creditors have warned that no new loan payments will be forthcoming if Greece falters on structural reforms required to put the economy in order after decades of overspending by the state.