Athens: A Greek caretaker government will prepare new elections probably on 17 June that are shaping up as a ballot on whether the country should remain a euro member.
“Greeks are faced with two choices in this election,” Antonis Samaras, leader of the New Democracy party, said in a statement on state-run NET TV. “We can change everything in Greece, together with a Europe that is changing. Or we can live through the horror and isolation of a euro exit and the collapse of all that we have built.”
Huge responsibility: Newly appointed caretaker Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos. Photo: John Kolesidis/Reuters.
The new vote follows inconclusive 6 May elections that pushed a political party opposed to Greece’s international bailout into second place, raising the specter of Greece leaving the euro. Public opinion polls say that the party, Syriza, may come in first next time, complicating Greece’s efforts to avoid running out of cash by early July. Samaras’s New Democracy party came first in the 6 May election, short of an outright majority.
President Karolos Papoulias failed in a bid to broker a governing coalition in meetings yesterday with party leaders in Athens.
Panagiotis Pikrammenos, head of Greece’s council of state, the highest administrative court, will be sworn in as head of the caretaker administration later on Wednesday, according to a statement from the president’s office. The formal announcement of the election date will be made after the new parliament is sworn in on Thursday and then dissolved.
“I have read that due to my name, I am the most appropriate prime minister,” Pikrammenos, whose name means bitter in Greek, told Papoulias on Wednesday as he accepted the mandate to form the short-term government. “It is a great joy and also a great burden.”
The political standoff since 6 May has reignited concern the country will renege on pledges to cut spending as required by the terms of its two bailouts worth €240 billion negotiated since May 2010, and, ultimately, leave the 17-nation euro area.
German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the Greek people and the nation’s future government would have to decide whether they’re prepared to accept the bailout conditions.
There are no easy ways to solve Greece’s problems, Schaeuble said in a Deutschlandfunk radio interview today. “If Greece wants to stay in the euro—and that’s something that we all wish for— then that’s the way it has to be.” “But that requires that Greece has a functioning government that is prepared to go this way.”
Greece’s benchmark ASE Index fell 1.3% to 555.42 at the close of trading in Athens, its lowest level since 1990. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.1%. The euro gained 0.1% to $1.2748.
National Bank of Greece SA plunged 13%, the biggest one-day drop since November, leading declines among Greek banks as deposit outflows were rekindled by the political instability.
Central bank head George Provopoulos told Papoulias that Greeks have withdrawn as much as €700 million and the situation could worsen, according to the transcript of the president’s meeting with party leaders on 14 May that was published on Tuesday.
Paul Tugwell, Tom Stoukas and Eleni Chrepa in Athens contributed to this story.