ATHENS -- In the latest twist to Greece’s lingering political crisis, President Karolos Papoulias on Monday proposed a government of technocrats to stave off a repeat round of elections that could jeopardize the country’s fate in terms of the shared European currency.
Papoulias pitched the proposal as coalition talks looked doomed and fears heightened that the political deadlock gripping Greece for a second week was setting up the cash-strapped country for a possible exit from the Eurozone, the 17 nations that use the euro. Stock markets across Europe were sharply down Monday morning.
“The talks will continue tomorrow ... with the participation of all the political leaders,” an official from the president’s office said.
The proposal came as Papoulias convened a meeting with conservative, socialist and euro-backing leftist leaders, a day after the talks collapsed over the formation of a national unity government.
Alexis Tsipras, leader of the radical leftist Syriza party that supports reversing tough austerity measures imposed by Greece's European neighbors, pulled out of those talks Sunday. He refused to team up with mainstream parties backing strict fiscal discipline.
"Syriza will not betray the Greek people and the mandate it received from them," Tsipras, a 37-year-old former student protest leader, told cheering crowds after his walkout from the crisis talks. "We will not become accomplices to the crimes" of Greece's austerity policies.
However, Syriza officials said Tsipras would return to the negotiating table Tuesday, but it remained unclear whether he and the six other political party leaders would endorse Papoulias’ proposal.
It also remained unclear whether Lucas Papademos, a former banker appointed to the helm of Greece's government for five months, would be prepared to take the job of heading the new administration and whether Greeks, who just went to the polls, would accept it.
"A government of technocrats," warned Fotis Kouvelis, the leader of the Democratic Left, "would signal a defeat of politics."
Heavily reliant on multibillion-dollar bailouts since 2010, Greece has promised to make an additional $14 billion in budget cuts by June. Failure to do so would jeopardize the rescue loans keeping the country afloat, its creditors have repeatedly warned.
Although polls indicate that about 77% of Greeks want their country to remain in the Eurozone, nearly 7 in 10 voters cast their ballots in support of smaller, anti-austerity parties, spurning the two mainstream conservative and socialist parties that have dominated politics here for decades.
Syriza won 16.8% of the May 6 vote, making it the second-leading party in an election that saw no group gain a majority in Parliament.
With two polls indicating that the party would increase its share if Greece is forced by the stalemate to hold another election next month, Tsipras has little incentive to rein in his rhetoric and his promise to renege on Greece's bailout deals. But even then, Syriza is not expected to win an outright majority in Parliament, which would prolong Greece's political crisis.
-- Anthee Carassava
Photo: Leader Alexis Tsipras of the far-leftist Syriza party, center, arrives for a meeting with Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Sunday. He refused to attend similar meetings Monday. Credit: Orestis Panagiotou / European Pressphoto Agency