Greek Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos hits stalemate

 
Leader of the New Democracy conservatives, Antonis Samaras (L) meets Pasok leader, Evangelos Venizelos at the Greek Parliament in Athens on May 11, 2012 Antonis Samaras (L) and Evangelos Venizelos (R) need another party to form a majority in parliament

The latest attempts to form a Greek government are said to be deadlocked, raising the prospect of fresh elections and more uncertainty for the eurozone.

The chance of a deal are "very slim", a senior government source told the BBC.

The leader of socialist party Pasok, Evangelos Venizelos, has been holding a series of talks with other party heads but has not made a breakthrough.

Greece's debt crisis has raised the possibility the country could default and be forced out of the eurozone.

German officials have kept up the pressure on the Greek politicians by warning that the country must stick to the terms of the bailout and repay its loans.

Mr Venizelos is the third leader to try to reach a deal since Sunday's election produced a hung parliament.

Earlier, there was some optimism that he might be able to form a coalition government with the centre-right New Democracy and the small Democratic Left party. However, Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis later rejected this possibility.

Start Quote

We are fighting for a government to exist - and there is still hope this can happen”

End Quote Antonis Samaras New Democracy leader

He said the left-wing Syriza party, which says the austerity measures imposed as part of the bailout are too harsh, must be part of any new administration.

Syriza got the second-highest number of seats in Sunday's elections after New Democracy. Following talks with MR Venizelos on Friday, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said he would not join the coalition.

Sources have told the BBC that Mr Venizelos is now unlikely to succeed in forming a government and is expected to hand back the mandate to the president on Saturday - barring any last-minute surprises.

The president would then probably summon all party leaders over the weekend for one last attempt at an emergency national salvation government. Failing that, elections could be announced on Sunday or Monday, our correspondent says.

Analysis

The stable future that Greece craves is slipping further from its grasp. Five days after an inconclusive election, the wrangling to form a government goes on and the country's hopes of remaining in the euro are fading fast.

In Sunday's poll, the majority voted against Greece's bailout and the public sector cuts that it entails. But most here want to keep the euro. Germany, though, has suggested Greece cannot have both.

German Finance Minister said Europe could survive without Greece. That may be brinkmanship, but if he had hoped that would jolt politicians here into action, he might be disappointed.

Failure to form a coalition would mean fresh elections and perilous instability. This is a critical period for Greece and the eurozone. Time is running out to steady the ship.

Mr Venizelos met New Democracy head Antonis Samaras on Friday morning, without making any public comment afterwards.

Pasok dominated Greek politics for most of the past four decades, but saw its support slashed - coming third with just 41 seats in the 300-seat parliament.

Our correspondent says the party is deeply unpopular - seen as the architect of austerity, and tainted with allegations of corruption.

Pasok and New Democracy formed the outgoing coalition but lost their majority in parliament.

'Irresponsible'

After meeting the Democratic Left leader on Thursday, Mr Venizelos said progress had been made.

Our correspondent said this meeting seemed to provide the framework of an agreement for a coalition that would lighten the austerity measures in Greece, renegotiate parts of the loan agreement but try to keep the country in the euro.

They hoped to persuade New Democracy to accept the plan - those three parties would have enough seats for a parliamentary majority.

Start Quote

We will help Greece, but Greece has to be ready to accept help”

End Quote Guido Westerwelle German Foreign Minister

But these hopes were scuppered by Mr Kouvelis, who told his party: "We will not participate in a government with [just] New Democracy and Pasok... Unless Syriza changes stance, we will have repeat elections."

After meeting Mr Venizelos, Mr Samaras told his MPs: "We are fighting for a government to exist - and there is still hope this can happen."

He said Syriza was being irresponsible but also hinted that their support might be needed to ensure that any government was "durable".

New Democracy won the most votes, taking 108 seats, but Mr Samaras was unable to woo other party leaders.

Syriza's leader also failed to form a government because of his insistence on rejecting austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF.

Pasok and New Democracy between them have 149 seats, two short of a majority. The Democratic Left party has 19 seats.

As the prospect of fresh elections loomed, Thursday's opinion poll put Syriza in first place with nearly 28% of the vote - up from 16.8% - winning 128 seats.

Greek lorry drivers and dock workers protest against benefit cuts, 6 April 2012 The budget cuts have caused widespread anger in Greece

The Marc survey for private Alpha TV put New Democracy in second place with 20.3% and 57 seats, and Pasok third with 12.6% of the vote and 36 seats.

The political deadlock has brought warnings from European leaders that debt-laden Greece could be thrown out of the euro if it does not stick to tough spending cuts and economic reforms.

On Friday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told parliament: "The future of Greece in the eurozone lies in the hands of Greece.

"We want to and we will help Greece, but Greece has to be ready to accept help. If Greece strays from the agreed reform path, then the payment of further aid tranches won't be possible. Solidarity is not a one-way street," he said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told the Rheinische Post newspaper that Europe "won't sink" if Greece leaves the eurozone.

Athens is due to approve fresh budget cuts worth 14.5bn euros (£11.6bn; $18.8bn) next month, in return for financial help from the EU and IMF worth a total of 240bn euros.

Greek election results graphic
 

More on This Story

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 287.

    This is not about Greece "shirking" its responsibilities - it is about the Greek people not having any other option but to challenge their "powers that be"
    It matters not to powerless people if the new "powers that be" are worse than the old lot.
    In a Democracy they are exercising the only "right" they have.
    No one is listening to them so what else can they do? It will happen here too.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 197.

    Greece, Spain, Portugal & Ireland have all fallen onto hard times because they saw the joining of the Euro as the way to drag their economies out of the doldrums. And, as long as Euroland (The World) was in a rising & optimistic state, they could ride on the backs of more successful economies. This has now stopped and their profligacy (too many Porsches) in good times has returned to bite them.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 191.

    Greece is suffering a social disaster because of the austerity measures of the last 2 years. People clearly voted that they won't have any more of that. Scrap the austerity measures, stop paying interest on the existing debt, introduce a fair taxation system and support for the weakest and most vulnerable. Fear-mongering isn't working anymore.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 155.

    Whether or not the Socialist leader can form a new government, the Greeks need to quit the Eurozone as every other country over there does and return to the Greek drachma. Moreover, they need to cut their military spending and just ignore the wishes of their useless NATO allies!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 152.

    I am astonished by the number of people who think that Greece should simply abandon austerity plans or debt repayments. If Greece does that, the EU bailout money will stop and Greece will be bankrupt within weeks. Public sector salaries won't be paid and services will stop. That would be far worse for ordinary Greeks than current austerity measures.

 

Comments 5 of 13

 

More Europe stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.