New far-left party gives up bid to form Greek government
Greece's far-left leader last night formally gave up a bid to form a coalition government, allowing the country's president to finally set a date for early elections after a week of political wrangling.
After using up all three days allowed, Popular Unity leader Panagiotis Lafazanis relinquished a mandate to form a government, given to him as head of the third-largest bloc in parliament after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned last week.
"I think we can go to elections in keeping with the spirit of the constitution," Mr Lafazanis told President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in a meeting at the president's office.
Mr Pavlopoulos is expected to check once more with party leaders on the odds of forming a coalition before installing a caretaker government to take the country to elections.
The announcement on the election, which could take place as early as September 20., is expected by Friday.
Greece's constitution states the three biggest parties in parliament get a shot at forming a coalition if a prime minister resigns within a year of taking power.
Both Mr Lafazanis and the main conservative opposition New Democracy party before him used up the three days each which were allotted, despite having virtually no chance of success.
Mr Lafazanis - who broke his rebel far-left faction away from Mr Tsipras's Syriza party last week, taking a sixth of its lawmakers with him - used his three days to air his anti-bailout message.
Mr Tsipras remains hugely popular in Greece despite making a U-turn to accept a bailout programme, and opposition parties feel a longer campaign period offers a better chance of denting his popularity as austerity cuts from the bailout start kicking in.
Syriza is expected to once again emerge as the biggest party in parliament when the snap election is held. But Mr Tsipras is not expected to secure an absolute majority, forcing him to find a coalition partner, failing which a second round of elections could be held.