Greek political leaders on Sunday ignored a final plea from the president to form a coalition government to avert a repeat election, pushing the debt-stricken nation closer to bankruptcy and a possible exit from the euro zone.
Leaders of the three biggest parties met at the presidential mansion for a final attempt to bridge their differences, but the talks quickly hit an impasse as they traded accusations on a deeply unpopular bailout package tied to harsh spending cuts.
Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, who finished first in last week's election, pinned the blame on the far-left SYRIZA party, which flatly rules out backing a pro-bailout coalition with Samaras's New Democracy and Socialist PASOK parties.
“They are not asking for agreement, they are asking us to be their partners in crime and we will not be their accomplices,” said Alexis Tsipras, who has become an overnight sensation since SYRIZA to a surprise second place in the vote.
The other leader at the morning talks — Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos — said he was holding on to hopes that a deal could still be salvaged, but warned time was running out.
“Despite the impasse at the meeting we had with the president, I hold on to some limited optimism that a government can be formed,” said Venizelos, whose PASOK party finished a humiliating third in the election, a shadow of its former might.
“The moment of truth has come. We either form a government or we go to elections.”
Both New Democracy and PASOK — which have taken turns in ruling Greece for nearly four decades and jointly negotiated a bailout — are eager to avoid facing the voters again.
Polls since the election show the balance of power tipping even further towards opponents of the bailout, who now appear to be rallying behind Tsipras, a 37-year-old ex-Communist student leader.