Conservative leader Evangelos Meimarakis spent the third and final day offered to him by Greece’s president to form a government in vain, rebuffed by leftist outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the leaders of smaller parties.
The leisurely pace of coalition negotiations since Tsipras resigned on Thursday — after only seven months in office — has prompted media calls for a caretaker leader to implement further austerity and reform policies that are essential to ensure Greece keeps getting vital funds under its new bailout deal.
Tsipras denounced the tactics of Meimarakis and radical leftist Panagiotis Lafazanis — the man who led a walkout from Tsipras’s Syriza party over the €86bn ($98bn) programme and is next in line to try to form a government.
“Don’t bother with tricks aimed at delaying the elections. These won’t get anywhere and the people understand this,” Tsipras told senior government and Syriza members on Saturday.
He remains favourite to form the next government after elections, but whoever leads Greece next faces daunting problems. The country narrowly avoided financial collapse and possible exit from the euro when Tsipras caved in to eurozone and IMF demands to secure the bailout.
Lafazanis, whose Popular Unity party immediately became the third biggest when it split from Syriza on Friday, is due to receive his presidential mandate to try to put together a coalition on Monday following Meimarakis’s failed attempts.
Lafazanis, whom Tsipras sacked as energy minister last month for rebelling, insists he will use his full three days but has ruled out dealing with anybody who supported the bailout.
That reduces his possible partners to the communists and Golden Dawn, an ultra-right group shunned by all the other parties. This unlikely combination would muster just 57 votes in the 300-seat parliament, under the current party standings.
While the creditors’ money has started flowing to Greece, it could stop if they feel Athens is not sticking to its promises at a review in October. That would sink plans to rescue Greek banks brought to their knees by the crisis.
Adding to the urgency, Greece is struggling with thousands of migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian civil war. They are landing on Greek islands in small boats, making their way to the mainland and heading to the Macedonian border, hoping to head for more prosperous countries in northern Europe.
Under Greece’s labyrinthine constitution, the three biggest parties are offered three days each to try to form a new coalition should a government resign after less than a year.
Only when these efforts have failed — something that is already a near certainty — can President Prokopis Pavlopoulos appoint a caretaker prime minister and call elections. Some believe Greece cannot wait for action until after elections, which Tsipras wants held before the end of September.