ATHENS — Upping the ante in a high-stakes political crisis, Greece’s conservative leader Antonis Samaras said Wednesday he would tacitly support a leftist coalition government — provided it worked to safeguard the country’s place in the shared European currency, “not destroy it.”
Couched in carefully written text, Samaras’ veiled endorsement, however, fell on deaf ears as a fresh round of talks with Alexis Tsipras, the radical left Syriza leader who emerged as the second-biggest vote-getter of Sunday’s elections, failed to form a ruling coalition.
Earlier, Tsipras explored the prospect of teaming up with socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos in hope of gathering at least 120 seats in Parliament and forming a minority government that could renegotiate a multibillion-dollar bailout with Greece’s international creditors.
Samaras warned the radical left leader to “come to his senses” ahead of their meeting, adding that his talk of tearing up the bailout agreement would yield an immediate and certain disaster.
“Renegotiation is one thing. Denouncing and annulling it is something entirely different and certain to lead to Greece’s exit from the euro,” Samaras warned in a nationally televised address. “Greek voters never gave anyone a mandate to destroy the country and push it out of the euro.”
Although Samaras' New Democracy party won the most votes in Sunday’s polls, it failed to gain an outright majority in the 300-seat Parliament, leaving the cash-strapped country in political limbo.
Cobbling together a government from the seething mass of interests represented in the new Parliament — from far right to extreme left — has been difficult. Even if formed, critics say, it would be weak and short-lived. Many analysts expect that Greece's president will announce new snap elections to take place as early as June 17.
European leaders have repeatedly warned since the election that there is no alternative to the bailout and austerity measures, and that Athens would bear the consequences if it reneged on its commitments to stick to the strict fiscal adjustment plan.
— Anthee Carassava
Photo: Alexis Tsipras, right, the leader of Greece's radical left party Syriza, meets with Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday for talks on forming a government. Credit: Evi Fylaktou / Associated Press