New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left are poised to agree on the formation of coalition government Tuesday after holding “constructive” talks yesterday. Anti-bailout SYRIZA and Independent Greeks have rejected the chance to join the administration.
Conservative chief Antonis Samaras met with the leaders of all the potential coalition partners after receiving the mandate to form a government from President Karolos Papoulias.
Samaras’s overtures were turned down by SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras and Panos Kammenos of Independent Greeks but PASOK’s Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left suggested that there was enough common ground to form an alliance.
Kathimerini understands that PASOK will seek an active role in the administration and could put forward several of its officials for ministerial roles. Also, Venizelos is not opposed to the idea of Samaras leading the new government as prime minister. Samaras, meanwhile, has suggested that 30 percent of the Cabinet should comprise non-political figures.
Venizelos insisted that SYRIZA should be brought into the coalition talks. He proposed a discussion between ND, PASOK, SYRIZA and Democratic Left to be hosted Tuesday by Papoulias.
“We agreed that the country must have a government immediately. Ideally we should have a government by tomorrow night,” Venizelos said. The ideal scenario, he said, would be “a government of shared responsibility involving four parties.”
Venizelos said the focus should shift to finding “as broad a coalition as possible.” He described the stance of SYRIZA as “anti-democratic and threatening.” He accused Tsipras of “trying to create the conditions for the failure of the government, the failure of the country.”
Tsipras ruled out the possibility of his party entering a coalition after talks with Samaras and called on the conservative leader to honor his pledge to renegotiate Greece’s debt deal with foreign creditors.
“I didn’t hear from his lips yesterday any reference to renegotiation; I only heard vows to honor commitments, to honor signatures,” Tsipras said, referring to Samaras’s speech on Sunday. He said he told Samaras that further cuts to salaries and pensions would be “catastrophic” for the country.
Tsipras added that Samaras should swiftly form a government, noting that the next 10 days ahead of an EU summit were critical. But he made it clear that he would not join a coalition. “We must be in opposition as we represent opposite camps,” he said. He added that he was certain SYRIZA would be vindicated in its opposition to Greece’s debt deal, the memorandum. “We are certain that we will be vindicated by developments in Greece and Europe,” he said, adding that “the memorandum cannot offer hope to Greece or Europe.”
SYRIZA’s refusal to join the government means that Democratic Left holds a key role. New Democracy and PASOK have enough seats to form a government on their own but the addition of the leftists would give it a slightly wider public appeal. It would also deflect some of the criticism that the new government would simply be more of the same, as PASOK and ND have governed Greece almost exclusively since 1974.
In a statement after his meeting with Samaras, Democratic Left leader Kouvelis suggested that his party might be ready to join the coalition.
He emphasized the need “for a government, and a progressive one, to lead the country out of deadlock” in a speech that did not once refer to leftist SYRIZA, which he had insisted should form part of a coalition after the previous election in May.
Kouvelis called on other political parties to respond to seven conditions for cooperation that he had set out ahead of the elections.
The seven positions, which Kouvelis first presented on June 10, are: cleaning up the political system, disengaging from the EU-IMF memorandum by 2017, overhauling Greece’s productive capacity, reorganizing agricultural development, ensuring citizens’ safety, tackling illegal immigration, and supporting and broadening social security and certain steps on foreign policy issues.
Among the proposals made by Democratic Left are: the introduction of a law allowing the assets of government members and senior civil servants who have served since 1974 to be inspected, scrapping ministerial and parliamentary immunity, reduction in MPs’ wages and end to pensions for parliamentarians, halving of state funding for parties, introduction of proportional representation, freezing of wage and pension cuts, canceling of law lowering minimum wage, restoring collective contracts, increasing the tax-free threshold and taxing the Church of Greece’s assets.
During a meeting of the party’s central committee earlier in the day, the majority of party members favored Democratic Left taking an active role in the government rather than just supporting it in Parliament.
With all the votes counted in Sunday’s elections, support for New Democracy stood at 29.66 percent, compared to 26.89 for SYRIZA. PASOK was third with 12.28 percent, followed by Independent Greeks on 7.51, Golden Dawn on 6.92, Democratic Left on 6.26 and the Communist Party on 4.5 percent.
In terms of seats in the House, this share of the votes translates into 129 for New Democracy, 71 for SYRIZA, 33 for PASOK, 20 for Independent Greeks, 18 for Golden Dawn, 17 for Democratic Left and 12 for the Communist Party.