Last gasp effort in Greece to form a government
The radical socialist Alexis Tsipras tried and failed to form a government following elections last weekend. Then it was the turn of the center right candidate and Prime Minister of the coalition government Antonis Samaras. He, too failed in his bid to attract enough coalition partners to govern.
The last hope to avoid an election next month - which might see Tsipras win outright control of the government - is socialist leader and member of the Samaras coalition Evangelos Venizelo. If he can't manage to cobble a government together, it means there is a distinct possibility that Greece will exit the euro and face bankruptcy.
Venizelos is the third and last political leader to attempt to form a government after Sunday's election, which left pro- and anti-bailout forces balanced almost equally.
Venizelos acknowledged he only had a slim chance in remarks to his parliamentary group, reduced to about a quarter of its former strength by elections in which voters punished his party and conservative New Democracy for imposing harsh austerity in exchange for a 130-billion-euro ($168-billion) EU/IMF bailout.
He said he would make every effort to form a coalition, or if not at least help the president try to find a unity government. That would be the last stage before new elections are called in three or four weeks.
Venizelos received a three-day mandate after radical Leftist Coalition leader Alexis Tsipras formally gave up his attempt, telling President Karolos Papoulias: "We did everything possible to form a government compatible with the popular vote, but that was not possible."
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, who finished first in the election, surrendered his effort within hours of receiving the first mandate on Monday.
As political efforts hit deadlock, new data underlined the depth of Greece's five-year recession, one of the worst in post-war Europe. The jobless rate hit a new record in February, showing one in five Greeks and one in two young people were out of work.
Young people are thought to have been a major component of the Left Coalition's success in the election, which took its vote from 5 percent in 2009 to nearly 17 percent, dislodging once mighty PASOK as the second party.
The bottom line is that more Greeks voted to end the bail out and its harsh austerity than voted to continue it. But the issue was never defined that way in the first round of elections and it is unclear whether giving people the stark choice of voting for Tsipras and his rejection of the EU/IMF bailout or Samaras and his efforts to keep Greece in the euro zone will result in a mandate either way. The Greeks favor the euro by about 75%, but rejected the measures that would allow them to keep it.
Elections will be held early next month to decide the issue.