Greece pro-bailout parties hold urgent coalition talks
The New Democracy party, which emerged victorious in Sunday's elections, entered into coalition talks with fellow pro-bailout party Pasok Monday. During a break in talks, Pasok’s leader said that a deal “must be wrapped up” by Tuesday.
Greece's pro-bailout parties met for crucial coalition talks on Monday in a bid to bring an end to weeks of political turmoil in the debt-ridden country.
Parties entered into make-or-break negotiations after President Carolas Papoulias gave the centre-right New Democracy party, which was victorious in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, the green light to forge a coalition government.
New Democracy, which won 129 seats in Greece’s 300-member parliament, is expected to strike a deal with the fellow pro-bailout party Pasok, whose 33 seats would be enough for them to form a viable majority government.
Alexis Tsipras the leader of the anti-bailout Syriza party, which won 71 seats in parliament, told New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras (pictured) earlier Monday that he would not enter into an alliance.
But the key meeting was always going to be between New Democracy’s leader Antonis Samaras and the socialist Pasok’s chief Evangelos Venizelos. The two met for brief talks on Monday evening but no agreement appeared forthcoming.
Venizelos told reporters after the discussions that a deal to form a new government "must be wrapped up" by Tuesday.
With memories of the failed coalition talks that followed the May 6 parliamentary elections still fresh, economist Samaras is under immense pressure to succeed this time around.
“The country cannot stay even one hour without a government,” the president told 61-year-old Samaras on Monday.
‘Politicians running out of time and money’
Even though the left-wing Pasok and centre-right New Democracy are usually political foes, both parties campaigned on a promise to largely stick to the terms of Greece’s second €130 billion EU/IMF bailout deal and its accompanying austerity measures.
However, Samaras did state that there should be amendments to the conditions of the bailout deal, “so the Greek people can escape from today's torturous reality.”
The eyes of world leaders and the global financial markets will all be on Greece as Samaras bids to build a government focused on keeping the country in the eurozone while staving off an impending financial black hole.
President Papoulias had told Samaras he wanted a government formed ‘by the end of the day’ (Monday).
His hand has been strengthened after his party boosted its share of the vote from 18.8% in the previous election in May to 29.6% in Sunday’s elections.
“This [sic: the negotiations to form a coalition government] is the stage when everything broke down six weeks ago,” said FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier, speaking from Athens.
“There’s a lot of horse trading that started last night, but there’s one significant difference to the previous round of talks and that’s the fact that Greece’s politicians know they are running out of time and out of money.”
“At the end of the July, it’s possible they will not have enough money to pay worker’s salaries or people’s pensions,” Vanier added.
Pasok’s 55-year-old leader has said he is in favour of joining forces but only if the Democratic Left, which won around 17 seats, is also involved in the coalition.
Under the Greek constitution, Samaras now has three days to form a government,
His path appears clear after radical left leader Alexis Tsipras, whose anti-austerity Syriza party came second in Sunday’s election, said he would not try to form a coalition of leftist groups.
Syriza, which increased its share of the vote from May’s elections by 10 percent, will form the main opposition and is expected to pressure the new government to renegotiate the austerity measures imposed on Greece.
Global markets initially rallied after Sunday’s election result with the euro rising against the dollar, but those gains were quickly wiped out.
Thrasy Petropoulos, managing editor of Greece’s English language newspaper Athens News, summed up the urgency facing the country’s political leaders in an interview with FRANCE 24: “Hospitals have started running out of money and people are not paying their taxes because they are waiting to see what will happen.”
Greece has been forced to seek two bailouts. The first one worth €110 billion was dished out in 2010, followed by a second €130 billion payment that Pasok and New Democracy jointly negotiated in 2012.
Despite the cash boost, Greece is mired in its fifth consecutive year of recession and unemployment now stands at 22 percent.
Even if the two parties succeed in forming a functioning government, Greece’s problems are far from over, Petropoulos argues.
“There will be no magic wand that can suddenly create money and jobs out of nothing. The problems Greece face are far too deep,” he said.