Greece's Tsipras bets on early polls to boost reform mandate

Athens, Aug 21: Greece's President launched the process on Friday of asking opposition leaders to form a new government, a day after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned and called an early election next month to deal with a governing party rebellion over Greece's third bailout deal.

The opposition has little chance of uniting and forming a government so quickly, meaning that after more than five years of a worsening financial crisis, Greece is headed for its fifth national election in six years.

Alexis Tsipras

Although Tsipras is widely tipped to win the election again, if he fails to secure an outright majority he would have to seek a complex coalition that could hamper his ability to govern.

Outgoing government officials say the likeliest election date is September 20, just eight months after Tsipras' election on promises to fight creditor-demanded spending cuts and tax hikes, terms he later agreed to in order to secure Greece a third bailout as its economy was on the brink of collapse.

President Prokopis Pavlopoulos was meeting the head of conservative New Democracy party Friday, Evangelos Meimarakis, and ask him to try to form a government.

If Meimarakis fails within the three-day limit, the next in line to try would be the head of the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party, and potentially the centrist To Potami, who both have the same number of seats in the 300-member parliament.

None are believed to have enough allies to gain Parliament's support. However, hardliners in Tsipras' radical left Syriza party said Friday they intended to split from the party and form their own separate group in Parliament.

If that breakaway group numbers more than the 17 seats held by Golden Dawn and To Potami, it would become the third largest in parliament behind Syriza and New Democracy, and would be able to receive the mandate from the president to try forming a government.

If no party can form a coalition government, Parliament will be dissolved and elections held within the next month.

Announcing his resignation in a televised address yesterday, Tsipras said he secured the best deal possible when he agreed to a three-year, 86 billion euro (USD 95 billion) bailout from other eurozone countries to save Greece from a disastrous exit from the shared euro currency.

But the deal came with strict terms for more belt-tightening. Tsipras' reversal in accepting the demands by creditors led to outrage among hardliners in his Syriza party.

About one in four Syriza lawmakers refused to back the bailout's ratification in Parliament last week, which was only approved with backing from opposition parties.

Greece's European creditors did not appear dismayed by Tsipras' move, which was widely expected. But Moody's credit rating agency warned the snap election "potentially, puts future (rescue loan) disbursements at risk."


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