Accusing Prime Minister George Papandreou of "not having the courage to admit his failure", Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Friday said that the government's call for political consensus on a new round of even harsher Memorandum policies was an attempt to "duck out" of the responsibility after leading the country down a dead end. In statements after a council of political leaders chaired by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Tsipras said the meeting had been "an open admission of failure of the policy of the Memorandum and the choices of the government and prime minister". He accused Papandreou of now using extortionist dilemmas to extract an anti-popular consent from the political right in order to continue the same dead-end policy.
SYRIZA's leader appeared fairly positively disposed to early elections, saying that this was the way that deadlocks were resolved in a democracy, while he also appeared open to the prospect of a referendum on the Memorandum provided this was not "couched in extortionist terms".
On the prospect of a Greek default, Tsipras played down this possibility as a form of blackmail that had been heard for the past week and "a strategy employed by the government that had no basis".
"At the same time that our creditors say that they cannot cope with a restructuring, they are saying that they are ready for us to be led to default and to lose everything," he pointed out.
Bid for consensus not over, government sources say
The effort for consensus has not been given up in spite of the apparent failure of an earlier political leaders' council convened by the president, government sources said late on Friday.
"There is not a Cold War climate. On our side the issue of reaching understanding is not over," the sources said after the meeting. According to their estimates, the climate and the way the political party leaders had dealt with the situation left some "chinks" for holding a discussion, even though there had not been any overall shift in the party leaders' positions.
They said the government had sought the meeting and was striving for political consensus on the measures because the country was at a critical juncture and there was no room for backtracking. They made it clear, however, that this not because Greece was at risk of being expelled from the eurozone, dismissing such talk as a 'joke'.
Relaying what happened during the leaders' council, they said that Prime Minister George Papandreou had made specific proposals to the party leaders, as well as asking them to agree to certain fundamental goals.
The prime minister had also indicated the government's willingness to negotiate on certain issues, such as placing individuals agreed on by all the parties in key positions, such as the Public Property Fund, or hold joint meetings with troika officials.
On the contentious issue of raising taxes, which was the focus of objections from main opposition New Democracy in particular, Papandreou said he was open to suggestions on avoiding this but stressed the need to replace the higher taxes with measures leading to an equivalent reduction in the public deficit.
Another of his proposals was a meeting between the economic teams of each party but this, according to government sources, received no reply from the party leaders.
The same sources repeated that there was no question of holding early elections while they ruled out the prospect of an all-party government, saying the government was prepared to consider the participation of individuals accepted by all parties for key positions but not as ministers.