ATHENS, Greece — A day after Greece’s two dominant parties collapsed at the polls, the leader of the center-right New Democracy party announced Monday that he had failed to form a governing coalition, pushing the mandate to the second party amid growing uncertainty about Greece’s political stability and staying power inside the eurozone.
“We did everything we could but it just wasn’t possible,” the leader, Antonis Samaras, said in a televised statement. Greek law gives the front-runner three days to form a government before the baton passes to the runner-up. But a party official told the private television channel Antenna that Samaras had “not wanted to waste time at such a crucial moment for the nation.”
President Karolos Papoulias is to meet with Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the second party, the Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
If Tsipras fails to form a coalition, the Socialist leader, Evangelos Venizelos, has a try.
If he fails, the president of the republic summons the leaders of all parties in Parliament and tries to broker a broad coalition. If that also fails, the president appoints an interim government to bring the country to new elections in 30 days.
On Sunday, the traditionally dominant parties, New Democracy and the Socialists, which both backed Greece’s latest loan agreement with its foreign creditors, did not get enough of the combined vote to form a majority in Parliament. Several smaller parties, whose fortunes rose on a rich harvest of protest votes, refused to join in a coalition with the larger parties.
The lack of a government could cast Greece’s loan agreement with its foreign creditors into turmoil, with a $4.3 billion refinancing looming this month and a requirement from its lenders to cut $15 billion from the budget in June. Beyond a popular rejection of Europe’s austerity recipe for Greece, the election results also marked the end of a political era for the Socialists and New Democracy.
“The established parties were collapsed — they had too much pressure from Berlin and Brussels and the IMF,” said Nikos Xydakis, an editor at the Kathimerini daily and a political commentator, referring to Greece’s troika of foreign lenders. “We were expecting that, but not so violently and so quick, but they broke everything.”
With New Democracy getting the biggest share of the votes — a modest 18.8 percent — Samaras had met with a range of political leaders, including the biggest winner of Sunday’s elections, Tsipras of Syriza. That party eclipsed the Socialists for the first time to place second with 16.78 percent of the vote.