Greek party leaders hopeful as coalition talks continue

Greek party leaders are holding a second day of talks aimed at forming a coalition government.

The country’s president has given the head of the conservative New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, until Wednesday to form an alliance, after his party won the most seats in Sunday’s parliament elections.

Samaras met Monday with PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who said he believes a coalition must be formed by the end of Tuesday. PASOK finished third in the polls, but joins New Democracy in its support of international bailouts for Greece.

The anti-bailout Democratic Left party may also join a coalition. Venizelos met with its leader Tuesday in Athens for what he described as positive talks.

“I am optimistic after my meeting with Fotis Kouvelis. To a large extent, we have common opinions and what is very significant now is that we speed up the process because we have to send a message abroad of stability and credibility in the country and, domestically, we have to send a message to the Greek people of security and prosperity. Because the Greeks need to smile once again.”

The radical leftist and anti-bailout Syriza party is refusing to be a part of the coalition. Party leader Alexis Tsipras says Greece needs to have a strong opposition and says history will prove that the bailout and its sharp spending cuts was wrong for Greece.

The New Democracy party won 129 of the 300 seats in parliament, while Syriza came in second with 71 seats and PASOK won 33 seats.

New Democracy and PASOK have been the only ruling parties Greece has known since the end of military rule in 1974.

Sunday’s vote came after last month’s election failed to bring about a new government.

New Democracy has promised to renegotiate the harsh austerity conditions demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday Greece must “stick to its commitments.”

Germany is Europe’s biggest economy and a major contributor to Greece’s two multi-billion-dollar bailouts.

The monetary crisis in Greece exploded in 2009 and set off a chain reaction across Europe. Greece is now in its fifth year of recession, with unemployment more than 22 percent. Greeks have filled the streets in often violent protests against the austerity drive, which includes spending cuts, tax hikes, and firing thousands of civil servants.



(Photo: European People’s Party)