Greece’s politicians have failed to agree to form a new government after days of hectic parleys among the major political parties, sending the country hurtling towards a possible new vote.
Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the Socialist PASOK party, acknowledged on Friday his failure to form a government after he was spurned by the radical Left Coalition (Syriza), which has campaigned against the bailout.
“The moment of truth is here. I will inform the president tomorrow afternoon. I hope everybody shows maturity and responsibility in consultations with the president,” Venizelos said.
“The moment of truth is here. I will inform the president tomorrow afternoon. I hope everybody shows maturity and responsibility in consultations with the president.“
-Evangelos Venizelos, leader of Socialist PASOK party
Karolos Papoulias, Greek president, will now have a last chance to meet with all political leaders to convince them to agree a cabinet, although the odds of success are seen as scant.
If he fails as expected, he must call a new election for mid-June.
The prospect of a new election just weeks after an inconclusive vote that paralysed the most troubled country in the eurozone caused havoc in financial markets.
The European single currency hit its lowest point since January near $1.29, while the Athens stock exchange fell more than 4 percent to its lowest level since 1992.
Separately, Papoulias’s office said he would meet Venizelos on Saturday on 10:00 GMT.
Earlier in the day, Venizelos held talks with centre-right New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and other political leaders in a bid to form a coalition.
Al Jazeera’s Tim Friend, reporting from Athens, said: “It is a culmination of a long, long day of political horse trading.
“Leader of the Socialist party looked mighty displeased. He made a final appeal to other party leaders to get their act together and try one more time to from a coalition.
“This will take place in front of the president on Saturday.”
The leader of anti-bailout Left Coalition (Syriza) party said he would not join a national unity government with the Socialist leader.
“It is not the Left Coalition that has refused this proposal, but the Greek people who did so with their vote on Sunday,” Alexis Tsipras said after talks with Venizelos.
The moderate Democratic Left party, which won 19 seats in Sunday’s election, said it could not join any coalition that did not include Syriza.
“We have made it clear, the Democratic Left party will not take part in a [coalition] government of New Democracy and PASOK,” Fotis Kouvelis, party leader, said.
A new poll showed Syriza headed for first place after consolidating the anti-bailout vote.
Venizelos, whose party came a distant third in last week’s inconclusive elections, winning 41 seats in the 300-seat parliament, had earlier said he wanted to create a unity government that would keep Greece in the eurozone – an aim echoed by Kouvelis.
Venizelos’ efforts follow the failures of New Democracy, which gained more than 100 seats, and the anti-austerity leftwing Syriza party, which finished second, to form governments.
Greece is now deep into political crisis that could kill off reforms and eventually force the debt-laden nation to leave the euro single currency union.
Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, said in an interview published on Friday that the eurozone would cope without Greece.
“We want Greece to remain in the eurozone,” he said. “But it also has to want this and to fulfil its obligations. We can’t force anyone. Europe won’t sink that easily.”