Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned Thursday and called for early elections. He is seeking a mandate to implement the three-year bailout program that has infuriated members of his radical left Syriza party.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in a televised address to the nation, said his government had got the best deal possible for the country when it agreed to an 86 billion euro ($95 billion) bailout from other eurozone countries.
"I wish to be fully frank with you. We did not achieve the agreement that we were hoping for before the January elections," he said. "But ... (the agreement we have) was the best anyone could have achieved. We are obliged to observe this agreement, but at the same time we will do our utmost to minimize its negative consequences. Our target will be to regain our sovereignty from our creditors as soon as possible."
The bailout was all that kept Greece from exiting the eurozone, but came with strict terms that left the more radical Syriza members furious.
Tsipras was originally elected in January because he campaigned on a platform to reject the very terms that he agreed to in the bailout: cutting spending and raising taxes.
His about turn in accepting the demands by creditors infuriated hardliners in his Syriza party. Dozens voted against him during the bailout's ratification in parliament last week, which was approved thanks to support from opposition parties.
Tsipras has insisted that although he disagrees with the conditions of the bailout terms, he had no choice but to accept and implement them to keep Greece in the euro. He said it was what the vast majority of Greeks wanted.
With Greek finances stabilized, Tsipras said he felt obliged to let the public evaluate his work.
"Now that this difficult cycle has ended ... I feel the deep moral and political obligation to set before your judgment everything I have done, both right and wrong, the achievements and the omissions," he said in the address.
The election process began when Tsipras formally submitted his resignation to the country's president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos. This would involve letting the two main opposition parties – the conservative New Democracy and far-right Golden Dawn - try to form a government.
Each party can spend up to three days attempting to do so, and New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis said he would use his available time. However, neither party is expected to receive the support needed in parliament to form a government.
Moody's credit rating agency warned in a statement that the snap elections "could elevate (bailout) program implementation concerns and, potentially, puts future (rescue loan) disbursements at risk."
av/lw (AP, Reuters)