Monday, 26 January 2015

Syriza to name government soon

Syriza, or the Coalition of the Radical Left, received more than 36 percent of the vote, beating the incumbent conservatives by seven points. This enables it to field 149 deputies in the 300-seat parliament - two shy of an outright majority. Independent Greeks is a right-wing party that campaigned as a potential coalition partner to Syriza. Syriza and Independent Greeks would command a comfortable majority of 162 seats. 

"As of his moment there is a government," Indepependent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos told reporters on Monday morning, as he emerged from the offices of Syriza, the main victor in Sunday's election, where he had held talks with Tsipras.

"We are giving a confidence vote to premier Alexis Tsipras. The prime minister will today go to the president to be sworn in and announce the makeup of the government," he said.

Talks had also been expected with The River, a centrist, reformist party, though no further mention of this was made on Monday.

Tsipras has until Thursday to announce the makeup of his government. 

Syriza has campaigned on a platform of ridding Greece of austerity policies dictated by its Eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. Those policies have helped Greece balance its budget but have also raised unemployment to 25 percent. Syriza has also vowed to renegotiate the terms of debt repayment to the Eurozone and IMF, which lent it 240bn euros. 

That debt is deemed unsustainable to the Greek economy and rescheduling it has been a political issue since 2012 - in other words for the duration of the outgoing socialist-conservative coalition's term in office; but talks on achieving this were never started. Syriza has said it wants up to half the debt forgiven and repayment of the rest extended by decades. 

Syriza has softened its message over the past three years - no longer threatening unilateral default. Instead it says it heralds a new, anti-austerity majority not just in Greece but across Europe. And it is basing much of its power to sway creditors, on the perception that the political time is right for them to forgive some Greek debt.

"I assure you that the new Greek government will be ready to co-operate and negotiate with our partners a fair, mutually beneficial and sustainable solution," Tsipras told a crowd of cheering supporters on Sunday night. "Greece will come to this dialogue with its own proposals, its own national reform plan, and its own four-year development plan.. There will no fatal disagreement (with partners) but also no continuation of austerity." Tsipras also promised not to repeat the tax-and-spend policies, which led Greece into debt, but to maintain a balanced budget. 

Yet Greeks' anger is mixed with fear that they could still be forced out of the euro if they cannot meet debt payments. Even Tsipras admits that the negotiation must be over by July, when government bonds worth some ten billion dollars come due. Until then, Greece has to survive on home-grown tax revenues. Those revenues fell sharply in the last few months. Greece missed its target of a 5bn euro primary surplus, bringing in just under 2bn euros in tax revenue above spending for 2014, the finance ministry announced on Monday. 

Outgoing conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras declared himself satisfied. "My conscience is clear. I took over a country on the brink of disaster. I was asked to hold burning coals in by hands. Most people gave us few chances of survival; but survive we did. We avoided the worst case scenario. We rid the country of deficits and the recession. We restored national credibility and prestige." His New Democracy party slipped only two points relative to its 2012 performance; but their junior coalition partners fared far worse. 

"The [election] result does not satisfy us at all given our efforts and our candour," declared socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, whose Pasok party got 4.68 percent of the vote, less than half its 2012 performance. He added, "I am sure that Syriza is aware of the enormous responsibilities it is shouldering." The socialist camp was split by the emergence of former socialist leader Yiorgos Papandreou under a rival banner. Venizelos announced that Pasok would hold a congress to reconstitute itself. 

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