PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos will hold talks on Friday with his counterparts at New Democracy and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) with the aim of agreeing on a framework for a unity government after Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday backed the formation of an ecumenical administration.
Kouvelis had previously insisted he would not enter a coalition with ND and PASOK as long as the two parties remained committed to the austerity policies applied over the last two years. The Democratic Left chief now appears to believe that a unity government with a specific agenda could meet his two specific goals of keeping Greece in the euro and moving the country away from the fiscal restrictions of the program agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
“The moment of truth is approaching for everyone,” said Kouvelis. “I propose the formation of an ecumenical government made up of trustworthy political figures that will reflect and respect the message from the elections.
“This government’s mission, which will have a specific program and time frame that will last until the European elections of 2014, will be twofold: firstly, to keep the country in the European Union and euro and, secondly, to gradually disengage from the [EU-IMF] memorandum.”
Kouvelis, whose name has been linked with the post of prime minister in any unity government, stressed that he and his party do not harbor ambitions of power.
Venizelos, who met President Karolos Papoulias yesterday to receive the mandate to explore options for forming a government, said he was encouraged by the content of his talks with Kouvelis.
“The discussion I had with Mr Kouvelis was very substantive,” said the PASOK leader. “Mr Kouvelis set out a specific and responsible proposal. We are very close, it is virtually in line with our suggestion for the creation of a national unity government that seeks to move beyond the memorandum within three years.”
Sources said that Venizelos and Kouvelis realize that the formation of a government with the support of New Democracy but not SYRIZA would raise questions about its viability. Sunday’s elections saw the leftist coalition more than treble its share of the vote to 16.78 percent, which gave it 52 seats in Parliament. Although a PASOK-ND-Democratic Left administration would have a total of 168 seats, there are fears that SYRIZA’s growing popularity, along with opposition from the other parliamentary parties - Independent Greeks, the Communist Party [KKE) and Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) - which are all opposed to the EU-IMF memorandum, would make governing difficult.
However, ND, PASOK and Democratic Left will have to balance this against the possibility that if no agreement is reached and new elections are held, SYRIZA will increase its share of the vote and the others will see their support decline. An opinion poll conducted by Marc for Alpha TV indicatedon Thursday that this is exactly what would happen. It put SYRIZA in first place on 23.8 percent, followed by ND on 17.4, PASOK on 10.8, Independent Greeks on 8.7, KKE on 6, Chrysi Avgi on 4.9 and Democratic Left on 4.2.
SYRIZA’s initial reaction to the consensus between PASOK and Democratic Left suggests the leftist coalition will find it difficult to accept a role in a unity government. Sources says SYRIZA believes the administration would not do enough to prevent harsh cuts in the months ahead.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras wrote to EU officials on Thursday to argue that the election result had taken away political legitimacy from the memorandum and that the terms of the agreement should be “re-examined,” which was a softer stance than the outright rejection of the deal the party seemed to have been advocating in its election campaign.