The new Popular Unity party, headed by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis (l. in photo), on Monday received the maximum three-day mandate from the president to form a government as the third and last party to be given the chance under the Greek constitution.
The main opposition conservative New Democracy had earlier tried and failed to find willing coalition partners, after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of the governing Syriza party resigned last week amid a mutiny of lawmakers opposed to his acceptance of austerity measures linked to a massive new international bailout deal.
If Popular Unity fails in its bid to gather a coalition within the three days as widely expected, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (r. in above photo) will probably name a caretaker administration under the head of the Supreme Court, ahead of elections likely to be held in the second half of September.
In another blow to Syriza, which already lost its parliamentary majority through the mutiny, its secretary, Tasos Koronakis, stepped down on Monday in protest at Tsipras' decision last week to call early elections rather than follow an earlier proposal to hold a party congress in September to address the rebels' concerns.
The Athens stock exchange was down 8.2 percent in trading on Monday afternoon amid the renewed political uncertainty.
Popular Unity, which has just 25 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament, has said it will keep the mandate for the full three days despite having no realistic chance of mustering enough support for a majority.
"We don't have illusions: an anti-(bailout) government cannot be formed by this parliament," Lafazanis said. "But we will use this mandate to show that the only thing that works toward the interest of the country and the Greek people is to have a new anti-(bailout) parliament."
Lafazanis has argued that Greece can happily exist outside of the eurozone.
Tsipras, who came to power on anti-austerity election pledges, has insisted that he was forced by necessity to accept the tough reform measures, including steep tax hikes and swingeing spending cuts, demanded by international creditors in exchange for a new 86 billion-euro ($99 billion) bailout.
Voters at a July referendum followed Tsipras' urgings to reject the reform demands.
Without the money, however, Greece seems likely to default on previous loans and be forced out of the European common currency, the euro. The rescue package is the third for Greece in five years.
If an election does take place in September, it will be the third time Greeks have been called to the ballot box this year after the referendum and the January poll that saw Syriza elected to government.
tj/jil (AP, AFP)