Greek government odyssey: Leftists reject coalition

Leader of the New Democracy conservative party Antonis Samaras (R) greets the head of Greece's radical left-wing Syriza party Alexis Tsipras (AFP Photo / Pool / Petros Giannakouris Giannakouris)
Fresh from its narrow win in Sunday’s re-election, Greece’s centre-right New Democracy has begun hard talks to form a coalition government.

The party’s leader Antonis Samaras received a mandate to launch coalition talks following weeks of uncertainty over the debt-crippled country's future in Europe's joint currency. The conservative leader says he wants to create a stable government with a stronger popular mandate.

With 129 of parliament’s 300 seats, Samaras’s party lacks the power to govern alone and must seek allies among smaller pro-bailout Socialists, like the Pasok party, which came in third in the election. Both parties are pro-bailout, but Pasok wants a broader government coalition and earlier denied the possibility of forming a two-party government with winner New Democracy.

Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos did say, however, that all negotiations must be completed by Tuesday.

The ultra-left wing Syriza party achieved second place but remained isolated over its plans to reject the terms of the EU-IMF bailout. The party’s leader Alexis Tsipras refused any role in a ruling coalition, saying his party will be a powerful force in the opposition.  "The role of a strong and responsible opposition… is to intervene in a powerful way and this is what I assured Mr. Samaras that we would do," Tsipras told reporters after holding talks with his conservative counterpart.

Antonis Samaras said he would seek changes in the terms of the bailout agreement. But John Hulsman, Pesident of John.C Hulsman Enterprises, a political risk consulting firm, thinks this is a “fantasy”. “In the long run Greece will have to real up to these terms. The terms themselves, as the Foreign minister of Germany made very clear yesterday, aren’t going to change. So, I think the Greek people are in for a great deal of disappointment”, Hulsman told RT.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed this, saying any loosening of agreed reform pledges in Greece after the election is unacceptable.

Only 40% of voters backed parties that broadly support the bailout deal.

In a statement on behalf of the 17 eurozone finance ministers on Monday, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Paul Juncker said that "continued fiscal and structural reforms are Greece's best guarantee to overcome the current economic and social challenges and for a more prosperous future of Greece in the euro area".

The new government will have to get to work quickly. Greece needs to find an additional 11.7 billion euro worth of spending cuts this month to quality for its next EU-IMF loan installment.