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Greek president tasks new anti-austerity party with forming government

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Greece’s former Syriza Energy Minister and leader of the new leftist Popular Unity Party Panagiotis Lafazanis (L) meets with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to receive a three-day exploratory mandate for the creation of a new government, in Athens, August 24, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

A new anti-austerity party formed by the Greek lawmakers who recently left Prime Minister Tsipras’ ruling Syriza Party in a show of protest has been given the mandate to form a coalition government in an effort to avoid snap polls in the country.

Panagiotis Lafazanis, the leader of the newly-formed Popular Unity Party, received the mandate from Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in the capital, Athens, on Monday after the liberal-conservative New Democracy Party failed to form a coalition.

Lafazanis has promised to steer the country away from austerity.

“Popular Unity is the force that wants to represent and express the “OXI” (No) with consistency, firmness and tip the end. The referendum’s “NO” is not defeated,” he said in reference to a June 25 plebiscite, in which the Greeks overwhelmingly voted against the tough austerity measures required by the country’s international creditors in exchange for a third bailout package.

The then government, however, opted against the people’s will and accepted the reforms demanded in exchange for the bailout.

The Popular Unity now has three days to form a coalition.

Neither of the two parties is expected to find coalition partners, a situation which will set the stage for early elections in the country after Tsipras stepped down last week. The premier has proposed September 20 as the date for the snap vote.

Journalists watch the televised address to the nation by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on August 20, 2015, when he announced his resignation. (Photo by AFP)


The origins of a splinter group

Tsipras’ resignation came amid a rift in his Syriza Party. Disagreements emerged after dissident lawmakers denounced the premier for what they called reneging on his anti-austerity promises, which brought him to power in January elections.

Eurozone finance ministers approved Greece’s third debt bailout on August 14 after the Greek parliament endorsed the rescue package following a tough all-night debate.

The decision to renew the bailout program garnered harsh criticism within the ruling party, and dozens of Syriza MPs voted against the deal.

Greece received two bailouts in 2010 and 2012 worth a total of EUR 240 billion (USD 272 billion) from its troika of international lenders – the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – following the economic crisis that hit Greece in 2009.

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