By Bryan McManus -
GREECE will have to hold fresh elections after talks on forming a new government broke up yesterday without agreement, socialist Pasok party leader Evangelos Venizelos said.
"We are going again towards elections, in a few days, under very bad conditions," Venizelos said, while a statement from the president's office noted simply that efforts to form a government had failed.
The talks turned on implementation of a very tough EU-IMF debt bailout accord after May 6 inconclusive elections saw Greeks largely vote against the austerity measures which Athens agreed to in return for the aid.
Panos Kammenos, leader of the Greek Independents party, lashed out at those he claimed would betray the people and who "prefer the creditors to national unity."
President Carolos Papoulias called a meeting meanwhile for 1000 GMT today with all party leaders to put in place an interim government to run the country until fresh elections, expected on June 10 or 17. Five of the parties which won seats in inconclusive polls on May 6 went into the talks to discuss a presidential plan for a technocrat administration to resolve differences over the EU-IMF debt bailout.
President Papoulias called the meeting after talks on Monday with the conservative New Democracy, Pasok and radical Democratic Left parties failed to reach an accord on a coalition government. He suggested that in the absence of any other solution, a government of "distinguished and non-political figures" should be considered to defuse an impasse over the tough austerity measures agreed to in the EU-IMF bailout.
Forming such a government would have avoided new polls and helped keep Greece in the euro zone, but time was very short — parliament convenes tomorrow and new polls had to be called if there was no government in place by then.
Also attending talks were leaders of the Greek Independents party and the radical left Syriza, which came second on May 6 on its pledge to scrap the austerity policy, if not the whole EU-IMF deal. The polls produced no clear winner and showed a majority opposed to the austerity measures, which many feel make the problems worse, reflecting increasing calls across Europe that the focus needs to be on growth.
Figures yesterday showed the Greek economy slumped a massive 6.2 per cent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, leaving the country mired deep in recession.