The first round of talks between Greek President Karolos Papoulias and political party leaders on the formation of a coalition government following last week’s general elections ended without a deal on Sunday.
Papoulias summoned the leaders of the top three parties in the May 6 polls for one-on-one meetings after all of them failed to reach a deal over the past week following the elections which produced no clear winner. The talks are seen as a last-ditch effort to form the cabinet and avoid a second round of polls, which analysts warn may endanger Greece’s membership in the euro zone.
Disagreements over Greece’s bailout deal have been the main obstacle to reaching an agreement on a new government. Conservative New Democracy (ND) chief Antonis Samaras and Socialist Pasok party leader Evangelos Venizelos back the plan, but Alexis Tsipras, who leads the radical left coalition Syriza, has refused to join any government that does not reject the harsh austerity measures imposed in return for billions of euros in international rescue loans.
Samaras, whose party fell just two seats short of a governing majority, told journalists after the talks that “deliberations will continue.”
But Tsipras, whose Syriza coalition was second in the elections, appeared uncompromising, saying: “For the sake of our responsibility before our fatherland, we will not become accomplices in a crime being committed against the Greek society.”
Papoulias also hosted the leaders of the other four parties that won seats in the new legislature in his presidential mansion in central Athens late on Sunday.
Panos Kammenos, leader of the nationalist Independent Greeks, was the first to see the president, followed by Aleka Papariga of the communist KKE, then Nikolaos Michaloliakos of the far-right Golden Dawn.
The last party leader to meet Papulias was Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis. He quoted the president as saying during their talks that “there has still been no opportunity to form a government.”
Kouvelis has proposed forming a national unity government with a two-year term that would enable Athens to renegotiate some tough austerity terms with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
If the Greek party leaders fail to come to an accord, the newly elected parliament will be dissolved and another election held in mid-June, which analysts warn could strengthen the standing of the anti-austerity coalition and therefore threaten Greece’s euro zone membership.
On Thursday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso added his voice to warnings that Greece could be forced to leave the euro zone if it did not fulfill its financial obligations towards the EU.