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.