Greek government talks fail; new election expected
Attempts to cobble together a government in Greece from among the fractious parties that won seats in Sunday's election failed Friday when the Socialist leader said he couldn't coax rival politicians into a coalition.
Evangelos Venizelos was the third party leader to fail this week in attempting to merge political forces and press on with tough austerity measures demanded by the European Union in exchange for bailout money for the deeply-in-debt nation.
Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, and leftist leader Alexis Tsipras both gave up earlier in the week when it became clear that agreement was elusive on how to proceed with economic rescue after voters so decisively rejected more spending cuts, which have killed jobs and slashed pay for those still employed.
Venizelos had expressed optimism Thursday after meeting with Fotis Kouvelis, the head of a small left-wing party, telling reporters the two were "very close" in their thoughts on how to meet European neighbors' demands for more belt-tightening to protect the continent's shared currency, the euro. But Venizelos said Friday that he had failed.
Greek President Karolos Papoulias is expected to call in all seven party leaders with prospective seats in the new Parliament for a last-ditch effort Saturday to corral them into a coalition government. But there was little hope expressed among political analysts that the president's effort would succeed.
Barring the unexpected, Greece will hold another election next month in hopes of getting more support from voters for centrist parties, said political analyst Ruby Gropas of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. Sunday's vote, widely seen as a protest of the fiscal policies agreed to by the Socialists and New Democracy, scattered support across an array of fringe parties from extreme right to far left.
Tsipras' Radical Left Coalition, also known as Syriza, has surged in the polls this week on the heels of his proclamations that he would halt debt payments and cancel planned spending cuts were he to lead a coalition government. The charismatic 37-year-old refused late Friday to join an emergency transitional government proposed by Venizelos that would also include New Democracy and Kouvelis' Democratic Left party, according to the ekathimerini.com Mediterranean news service.
Greece now appears to be without a functioning government until another election can be organized, probably no sooner than June 17.
The prolonged uncertainty about what steps Greece will take to meet conditions for its next bailout funds has stirred increasing talk in the 17-nation Eurozone that Greece may be forced to drop the euro currency and return to the drachma.
-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Leftist leader Alexis Tsipras, right, leaves the office of Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, who failed to draw Tsipras into a governing coalition Friday. Credit: Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP/Getty Images