Thursday 23 November 2017

Failure to form coalition puts €5.2bn Greek bailout at risk

Daniel Howden in Athens

RADICAL left leader Alexis Tsipras failed last night in his effort to form an anti-bailout coalition in Greece, as European leaders debated withholding loan payments in response to political posturing in Athens.

A final effort to agree a unity government from pro-European parties gets under way today with little likelihood of success -- an outcome that would send Greeks back to the polls.

Eurozone finance ministers were last night considering whether to postpone the latest tranche of aid to Athens from the European Financial Stability Fund as concern mounts over Greek leftists' statements that the country should renege on its debts.

With no clear sign of who will take charge in Athens, it was expected that the €5.2bn payment would go ahead as scheduled, despite reported concerns from Germany and Finland.

Evangelos Venizelos, the leader of the tainted socialist party Pasok, will now lead a last-ditch effort to form a parliamentary majority out of Greece's fragmented election result.

Mr Venizelos, finance minister in the previous coalition, knows better than most how likely Athens is to wring concessions from its lenders and has appealed for Greece to honour the commitments it made in return for two multi-billion-euro bailouts.

The more likely outcome is that Greece's fractured right wing will try to unite against Mr Tsipras and his Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) ahead of fresh elections expected on June 17.

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Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, whose New Democracy party led Sunday's poll by a narrow margin from Syriza, has already failed to find coalition partners.

Mr Samaras warned yesterday that the Syriza leader's stance would "lead to immediate internal collapse and international bankruptcy, with the inevitable exit from Europe".

Mr Samaras, who pushed for elections after leading in opinion polls, has been punished for criticising the bailout while in opposition before signing up to it after joining the unity government.

During the election campaign he attempted to please both sides by promising to amend Greece's deal with creditors.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle added to pressure on the politicians yesterday when he insisted that Greece would receive no more aid unless it continued to enact the agreed economic reforms and acknowledged that the country could end up leaving the eurozone if it failed to comply.

"Germany would like to keep Greece in the eurozone, but whether Greece actually does remain in the eurozone or not lies in its own hands," he said.

Mr Tsipras has appealed to Greeks by denouncing the bailout terms as tantamount to "occupation" and promising to tear them up while keeping the country in the euro as the leader of a European anti-austerity movement.

Mr Samaras, who may find himself ousted from the party leadership, hit out at attempts to build a broad "anti-European" front by his opponents: "The Greek people have not given a mandate to destroy the country, nor to leave the euro." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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