x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

No deal yet on Greek coalition, says Socialist leader

Evangelos Venizelos said there had been no success so far with negotiations to form a coalition government after weekend elections resulted in a deadlock.

ATHENS // The Greek socialist leader, Evangelos Venizelos, yesterday said there had been no success so far with negotiations to form a coalition government after weekend elections resulted in a deadlock.

The former finance minister, whose PASOK party came in third with 13.18 per cent, is next in line to take over the mandate of trying to cobble together a coalition. He said he would continue the efforts when he is handed the task today.

Alexis Tsipras, the head of the Radical Left Coalition, or Syriza, was leading the talks yesterday and met with Mr Venizelos as well as the heads of other parties on the right and left of the political spectrum.

Mr Tsipras has been seeking support for a left-wing government that would reject the terms of Greece's international bailout, which critics have said would lead the country out of the euro.

Sunday's election result was a severe blow to PASOK, which has dominated Greek politics along with the rival conservatives, New Democracy, for four decades and stormed to victory with a landslide in the previous elections in 2009.

Its popularity suffered from the harsh austerity measures it imposed in return for two multibillion euro international bailouts.

The measures, which included salary and pension cuts and repeated tax hikes, have left Greece in a fifth year of recession.

Mr Venizelos insisted it was imperative for Greece to remain within Europe's joint currency.

"Mr Tsipras asked me if we would address the possibility of supporting a unity government that would freeze the process [of austerity]. I answered that the country has no time to waste and we cannot examine any option that would prolong the recession," Mr Venizelos said.

"The vast majority of the country wishes to remain in the euro," he added. "Exit from the euro would result in mass poverty, a loss of value of property, income and prospects. Greece would lose many decades."

Mr Tsipras met later with the New Democracy head, Antonis Samaras, who came first in Sunday's polls with 18.85 per cent of the vote and 108 seats in the 300-member parliament.

Mr Samaras, who does not agree with a coalition with the Radical Left, says the demands would bankrupt Greece.

Given that the Communist Party refuses to join any government and no parties are talking to the extreme right party Golden Dawn, which won 21 seats, no coalition can be formed without Mr Samaras.

All have said they want to avoid another round of elections, which will be inevitable if no coalition government can be formed.

Mr Venizelos said his meeting with Mr Tsipras was friendly, but that no agreement was reached.