Greece is heading towards new elections after politicians failed to form a government, nine days after an inconclusive vote, prolonging a political crisis that has pushed the country closer to bankruptcy and exit from the euro.
After a third day of failed talks with political leaders on Tuesday, a spokesman for President Karolos Papoulias said the process of seeking a compromise had been declared a failure and a new vote would be held.
On Wednesday, Greek political leaders met the president in Athens in connection with formation of a caretaker government and to decide the date of the elections.
A judge is to be appointed head of interim government, according to Independent Greeks party leader.
It was also decided to hold general elections on June 17.
“For God’s sake, let’s move towards something better and not something worse,” Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the socialist PASOK party, said after the meeting. “Our motherland can find its way, we will fight for it to find its way.”
Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left, said his party “did everything possible, I did everything I could for the six per cent of the population that honoured me with its vote … Unfortunately, our proposal for a unity government was rejected”.
Leaving the talks, Antonis Samaras, the leader of the centre-right New Democracy, said his party was prepared to accept a government even without any New Democracy representatives, as long as Greece remained in the euro.
No ‘middle ground’
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Athens, said that throughout the discussions there had been no middle ground among the parties.
He said that compromise would be necessary if Greece wanted to avoid “a disorderly exit from the euro”.
The inability of Greek political parties to reach a consensus and form a government after days of talks has led to frustration among the people.
Greece has been without a government since an inconclusive May 6 election left parliament split between supporters and opponents of a 130bn-euro bailout package reviled by many Greeks for imposing deep wage, pension and spending cuts.
Polls show the Radical Left Party, known as Syriza, which rejects the bailout and placed second in last week’s vote, is now on course to win new elections, a result that would give it an automatic bonus of 50 seats in the 300-seat parliament.
“We resisted in every way,” said Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s leader. “We made the decision to not betray your hopes and your expectations.”
His party fought the election on an anti-austerity platform and blocked any deal with pro-bailout mainstream parties.
“Now it’s time to complete it: We will consign in the dustbin of history all the spent forces of the past,” Tsipras said.
The turmoil in Greece sent shockwaves around other troubled members of the 17-nation European single currency area on Tuesday.
The euro slipped below $1.28, world stocks slid and Spanish and Italian bond yields rose above the danger level of six per cent as investors ran for shelter in safe-haven German bonds.
Eurozone finance ministers have dismissed talk of Greece leaving the single currency area as “propaganda and nonsense”.
However, with hostility to EU/IMF-imposed austerity rising in Greece, speculation about a possible state bankruptcy and euro exit is affecting financial markets.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, said it was important to be technically prepared for the possibility of Greece leaving the eurozone, warning that such a move would be “quite messy” with risks to growth, trade and financial markets.