Greece’s radical leftist Syriza party yesterday was set to start trying to build an anti-austerity Cabinet and prevent fresh elections, a day after the conservatives failed to form a coalition government.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras met for talks with Greek President Carolos Papoulias and given three days to form a government, with debt-laden Greece facing stern warnings from Germany and the EU to stick to its bailout deal.
“We will exhaust all possibilities to reach an understanding, primarily with the forces of the left,” Tsipras said.
The conservative New Democracy party’s failure to form a government on Monday underscored Greece’s precarious situation, with the country needing bailout funds to stay afloat, but where painful austerity measures have given rise to widespread voter anger.
The euro and world stock markets sank on Monday after voters kicked out the Greek government in weekend elections and voted in a Socialist president of France in a backlash against austerity, but Asian markets rebounded yesterday.
The political developments in France and Greece had stoked anxiety about the fate of the EU’s tough fiscal pact adopted in March to try to end the eurozone’s crippling debt crisis.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said on Monday his efforts to form a “national salvation” administration had failed, -meaning that Syriza, as the runner-up in Sunday’s election, would now be tasked with forming a government.
“I did whatever I could to secure a result, but it was impossible,” the 60-year-old Samaras said in a televised address after a day of separate meetings with fellow leaders.
Samaras was rebuffed by Syriza and the small Democratic Left group, while the nationalist Independent Greeks and the Communist party refused to even meet with him.
Third-placed socialist party Pasok, which was formerly in a coalition with New Democracy, agreed to cooperate, but only if the leftists also joined.
The snub to Samaras suggests that Greece’s political parties are paying more attention to the punishing message sent by voters fed up with austerity measures than to worries about the future of the euro or warnings from Berlin and Brussels.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the chief proponent of austerity as the main way out of the eurozone crisis, said on Monday it was “of utmost importance” that Greece stuck to its reform path, although conceding this was “difficult.”
A spokeswoman for the European Commission said Brussels “hopes and expects that the future government of Greece will respect the engagements that Greece has entered into.”
Tsipras, who described the election results as a “message of overthrow,” has said he would seek to form a left-wing coalition to reject the “barbaric” measures of the EU-IMF loan agreement that saved Greece from fiscal collapse.
A new government has to be formed by Thursday next week or new elections will be called.
The country, in its fifth year of recession with unemployment at 20 percent, is committed to finding next month another 11.5 billion euros (US $15 billion) in savings over the next two years.
New Democracy and Pasok, which have alternated in power since 1974, saw their share of the vote collapse to 32.1 percent on Sunday from 77.4 percent at the last election as voters supported instead a raft of anti-austerity parties.