Greek op­po­si­tion tries to form gov­ern­ment


Greece’s pres­i­dent asked the main op­po­si­tion party Fri­day to try to form a new gov­ern­ment, a day af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras re­signed and called an early elec­tion next month to deal with a gov­ern­ing party re­bel­lion over Greece’s third bailout deal.

The op­po­si­tion has few chances of unit­ing and form­ing a gov­ern­ment, mean­ing that af­ter more than five years of a wors­en­ing fi­nan­cial cri­sis, Greece is headed for its fifth na­tional elec­tion in six years. Tsipras is widely tipped to win the vote, though if he fails to se­cure an out­right ma­jor­ity he could have to seek a new coali­tion that could ham­per his abil­ity to gov­ern.

Hard­line law­mak­ers in Tsipras’ rad­i­cal left Syriza party an­nounced Fri­day they were split­ting from the party and form­ing their own anti- aus­ter­ity move­ment, which be­comes the third largest group in Par­lia­ment.

Out­go­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials say the like­li­est elec­tion date is Sept. 20, just eight months af­ter Tsipras was elected on prom­ises to fight cred­i­tor-de­manded spend­ing cuts and tax hikes, terms he later agreed to in or­der to se­cure Greece a third bailout and keep it from fall­ing out of the euro.

It will be the third time this year that Greeks vote, af­ter Jan­uary elec­tions and a July 5 ref­er­en­dum Tsipras called urg­ing vot­ers to re­ject re­forms that cred­i­tors were propos­ing dur­ing the bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Greece’s Euro­pean cred­i­tors did not ap­pear dis­mayed by Tsipras’ move, which was widely ex­pected.

The Step ‘isn’t sur­pris­ing’

“The step by Prime Min­is­ter Tsipras isn’t sur­pris­ing” con­sid­er­ing he has lost his ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, said St­ef­fen Seib­ert, spokesman for Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel. “The bailout pro­gram is a pro­gram that was agreed with the Hel­lenic re­pub­lic ... and it will be valid through elec­tion dates.”

Ger­man Fi­nance Min­istry spokesman Juerg Weiss­ger­ber said that if there were de­lays in im­ple­men­ta­tion of the bailout agree­ment due to the elec­tions, “then it would mean that the next pay­ments are de­layed too.”

Funds from Greece’s new three­year, 86 bil­lion euro ( US$95 bil­lion) bailout are be­ing dis­bursed in batches fol­low­ing re­views of the coun­try’s progress on im­ple­ment­ing re­forms. The first in­stall­ment was re­leased Thurs­day so Athens could meet a debt re­pay­ment to the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, and a first re­view is ex­pected in Oc­to­ber.

On Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Prokopis Pavlopou­los met con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy party head Evan­ge­los Meimarakis and asked him to try to form a gov­ern­ment. Meimarakis has three days to seek coali­tion part­ners, af­ter which the third largest party in Par­lia­ment would a chance for a fur­ther three days at most.

The third largest party is now the new move­ment formed by the 25 law­mak­ers who split from Syriza Fri­day. The group, named Pop­u­lar Unity, will be led by for­mer energy min­is­ter Pana­gi­o­tis Lafaza­nis.

Meimarakis also met with the speaker of Par­lia­ment to seek her con­tri­bu­tion in try­ing to cob­ble to­gether a gov­ern­ment and avoid early elec­tions.

How­ever, it is un­likely that Meimarakis or the new party will be able to form a gov­ern­ment. At that point, Par­lia­ment will be dis­solved and a care­taker gov­ern­ment ap­pointed to lead the coun­try to early elec­tions within a month.


Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, sec­ond left, leaves the Pres­i­den­tial Palace af­ter a meet­ing with Greek Pres­i­dent Prokopis Pavlopou­los in Athens, Thurs­day, Aug. 20.

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