Trial and error in Greek government talks | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 10.05.2012
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Trial and error in Greek government talks

Already suffering a lack of political leadership, a third man is trying his hand at putting together a government in Athens. If he fails, the president will likely call new elections.

The political wrangling in Greece is going into overtime. After election winner Antonis Samaras of the conservative New Democracy party as well as surprise second-place finisher Alexis Tsipras of the Radical Left Coalition failed to form coalition governments, third-place Evangelos Venizelos of the Socialist Party has been given a chance.

A major motivating factor for the former finance minister to cobble together a cabinet is the debacle polls predict he would suffer if new elections are called. That could be one of the reasons Venizelos has issued calls for a consensus government with representatives from across the political spectrum and led by a left-leaning prime minister who would be tolerated by conservatives. EU-friendly Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis and EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki could be considered possible prime ministers, according to the Athens-based daily Ethnos.

Evangelos Venizelos

Few believe that Venizelos will succeed in forming agovernment

Such a government, however, would be considerably weaker than the previous cabinet led by the independent finance expert Lucas Papademos, and Kouvelis has already rejected the position and said his name should not be misused by politicians looking to score political gains.

Neo-Nazis at the table?

Should Venizelos, like his two predecessors, prove unable to form a government by Monday, Greek President Karolos Papoulias would be called upon to intervene and either convince the political party heads to reach a compromise or call new elections, which would likely be set for June. The constitution, however, does not specify which party heads he is required to sit down with. The broadest interpretations of the law would call for representatives from all the parties that won seats in parliament.

That would include Nikolaos Michaloliakos, head of the far-right Golden Dawn, which rejects the neo-Nazi label ascribed to it, sitting down with Papoulias, who fought against the Nazis as a 15-year-old boy in World War Two.

Legal scholar Giorgos Sotirellis, however, said such a political affront could be avoided.

"The only reason the constitution does not make a concrete statement is to leave the head of state as much room for discretion as possible," he told the daily Ta Nea. "He is not required to invite or not invite any particular politicians."

Take it again from the top

Greek euro coin

The government talks might very well decide on Greece's future within the eurozone

Should even the president not be able to convince the politicians to cooperate, he would be left with no choice but to call for new elections. The process would call for the parliament elected by the May 6 vote to come to order and on the following day be dissolved. The earliest an election could be held is mid-June, with June 17 eyed as a likely date.

And if even a second round of voting doesn't conclude with a clear winner, the entire process would start again from the beginning. In the 80s, Greece was wracked with a series of corruption scandals and became nearly ungovernable. It took a set of three elections for the country to establish a somewhat stable government under the leadership of the conservative Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis. Before him the legendary Socialist leader Andreas Papandreou was tried by a special tribunal and later acquitted. His lawyer was none other than Evangelos Venizelos.

Author: Jannis Papadimitriou / sms
Editor: Simon Bone

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