Forming a government in Greece is a task as hard as any out of ancient mythology.
As in other countries, here is how it is supposed to work. The president first gives the party with the most votes won in the election the chance to form one. In this case, the pro-bailout conservatives can not, so it is the number two Radical Left Coalition’s turn – SYRIZA.
But no matter how determined its leader is, Alexis Tsipras is having as much trouble as anyone else trying.
The KKE communists have said they will not join SYRIZA. There are not enough seats in the Democratic Left to make up a majority, and few experts see a minority government being able to work.
If Tsipras is forced to throw in the towel, the third- placed socialist PASOK party, the stuffing knocked out of it in the election, has little chance of success, no matter how its leader Evangelos Venizelos pleads. SYRIZA is anti-bailout, and PASOK is pro-bailout.
Result: stalemate, pointing to another election next month.
If SYRIZA and the Democratic Left formed an alliance, to become the country’s dominant political voice, combined they would be entitled to 50 bonus seats that go to the top party in parliament.
Polling institutes say that might be enough to constitute a majority. In that case, Tsipras would present his wish list. He has already said what he wants.
Tsipras said: “The national debt should be investigated by an international commission. There should be a moratorium on repayments. A fair and viable European solution is demanded. The crisis is not only Greece’s doing. It is a European crisis, and a solution should be demanded within a European framework.”
Tsipras sees a glimmer of light in François Hollande’s presidential success in France’s election, and would like to meet him. He likes what he hears, Hollande saying ‘less austerity, more growth stimulus’.
In the meantime, there is no moratorium on payments Greece is obligated to make. It has received assurances that it will get a 5.2 billion euro bailout tranche this Thursday. But default on a reimbursement due in June is a real risk. Athens needs to negotiate another 30 billion euros of aid, and it can not if the country is politically paralysed.