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Greece: Opposition party head returns mandate to form gov’t

Evangelos Meimarakis, head of the conservative New Democracy party, returned the mandate after the three-day limit

Published: Updated:

The head of Greece’s main opposition party returned his mandate to form a government to the country’s president on Monday after failing to find coalition partners following the prime minister’s resignation and call for early elections.

Evangelos Meimarakis, head of the conservative New Democracy party, returned the mandate after the three-day limit. It now passes to the third-largest party in parliament, a new anti-bailout group named Popular Unity formed by hardliners who split from the governing radical-left Syriza party last week. Neither party is expected to be able to form a government, and early elections are most likely to be held on Sept. 20.

Despite acknowledging that there was no chance of forming a government, Popular Unity parliamentary representative Dimitris Stratoulis said the party will keep the mandate for the full three days. This, he said on the private Mega television channel, was in order to discuss political developments with other parties.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned on Thursday, just seven months into his four-year mandate, following a rebellion in his party over Greece’s new bailout. Syriza hardliners blasted the party’s young leader for reneging on the promises which won him the January election to repeal austerity measures that were imposed in return for Greece’s two previous international bailouts.

Under electoral regulations, each of the three largest parties in Parliament has a maximum three days to seek coalition partners. If no coalition can be formed, the president convenes a meeting of party leaders in a last-ditch attempt to find consensus before a caretaker government is appointed and an election date is set.

This looms as the third time this year that Greeks head to the ballot box, after the January election and a July referendum Tsipras called within a week, urging voters to reject creditor reform demands - which they overwhelmingly did.