- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ATHENS (AP) — The head of Greece‘s Council of State will take the reins of the country until it holds new elections on June 17, political party leaders decided Wednesday, a day after power-sharing talks collapsed, state TV reported.

Nine days of negotiations among Greece‘s bickering parties failed after inconclusive elections May 6 left no party with enough votes for a majority in parliament. The lack of a deal to share power meant the only option open was to head back to the ballot box.

The caretaker government will have no mandate to take any internationally binding commitments, with emergencies to be handled in consultation with party leaders, Communist Party head Aleka Papariga said.

“It will be a strictly caretaker government, which must not take any action at the EU or NATO that will be binding for the Greek people,” Ms. Papariga said after another meeting with other party heads, convened by President Karolos Papoulias to find agreement on who will lead the temporary government.

“If there is an emergency or unforeseen event, that can be addressed by consultation among the parties with the involvement of the president,” she said.

Council of State head Panagiotis Pikramenos will be appointed prime minister until the new elections.

Reeling from two years of a vicious financial crisis that has seen it take billions of euros in international rescue loans in return for imposing strict austerity measures aimed at reforming its problematic economy, Greece has been thrown into further turmoil by the May 6 elections.

Voters furious with the handling of the country’s severe financial crisis deserted the two formerly dominant parties — conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK — turning instead to a myriad of smaller parties. Those that pushed for Greece to pull out of its international bailout agreements saw the most gains.

The inability to form a government and the prospect of another inconclusive general election have increased concern over Greece‘s ability to cope with its finances and threaten the country’s continued participation in Europe’s joint currency, the euro. The instability comes at a critical time, with Greece expected to take yet more austerity measures next month in order to meet the targets laid out in its bailout deal with other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund

“There is no other solution. It is very difficult for parties with so many differences to form a government,” Athens resident Katerina Papadaki said about the new elections. “Their programs are completely different.”

Opinion polls in the past few days have projected the winner of the new election to be Syriza, which has campaigned on an anti-bailout ticket and made massive gains on May 6 to come in second place with 16.8 percent and 52 seats in the 300-member parliament. But it would still not gain enough for a parliamentary majority, meaning more negotiations for a power-sharing government would likely ensue.

“I believe this time the Greek people will think their decision through, because as we saw, nobody is willing to govern,” Athens resident Lambros Rokanas said.

Syriza head Alexis Tsipras refused during the power-sharing negotiations to join or support any coalition government that would seek to continue implementing Greece‘s bailout. The heads of the other parties that could have formed a coalition insisted he be on board.

The other party that made massive gains in the May 6 ballot was Golden Dawn, which vehemently rejects the neo-Nazi label and campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform. It took nearly 7 percent of votes — compared with 0.31 percent in the 2009 elections — and won 21 seats. The party was the only one all the other political leaders refused to consider or negotiate with in the efforts to form a government.



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