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New blow for Greece’s Syriza as rebels try to form govt

Athens: Greece’s embattled ruling Syriza party suffered another blow today when its secretary quit, as eurosceptic rebels were given a mandate to try to form a government.

Syriza secretary Tasos Koronakis stepped down in protest at Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ decision last week to call early elections, backtracking on an earlier proposal to hold a party congress in September to address the rebel faction.

Greece is likely headed for snap elections as early as next month after Tsipras resigned in the face of the internal Syriza revolt over his acceptance of the tough terms of a massive new international bailout deal.

Tsipras today told his party’s remaining political secretariat that he did not want a “leftist civil war” to break out during the election campaign.

According to a government note, the outgoing PM said his aim remained to “gradually” take the country out of austerity, and ruled out cooperating with the conservatives and socialists after the election.

With the Athens stock exchange shedding over 10.5 per cent as global shares plunged over China economic worries, the ex-Syriza rebels today formally received a mandate from President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to attempt to form a government in the next three days.

The leftist hardliners, who call themselves the Popular Unity party after the victorious 1970 Chilean alliance of Salvador Allende, are the third and last party to receive a mandate under the terms of the constitution.

“We will use this mandate to demonstrate the necessity of an anti-austerity government,” said party leader Panagiotis Lafazanis, a former senior Communist who has argued that Greece can happily exist without the euro.

The main opposition New Democracy conservatives — who have 76 seats in the 300-member parliament — had earlier attempted and failed to form a government.

With just 25 lawmakers, Popular Unity cannot realistically muster enough support for a majority in the 300-seat parliament either.

Pavlopoulos is expected to terminate the procedure on Thursday and name a caretaker administration under the head of the Supreme Court.

Tsipras’ coalition ally Panos Kammenos, head of the nationalist Independent Greeks party, today branded the process “a waste of time.”

Tsipras resigned on August 20 after an anti-bailout mutiny by Syriza eurosceptics formally wiped out his parliamentary majority, leaving the party with around 124 seats.

The EU has taken the snap ballot decision in its stride, and debt rating agency Moody’s today even called Tsipras’ resignation “credit positive,” arguing that it could well create a more cohesive government.

But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told AFP that whichever government emerges, “has to respect the agreement contracted with Europe.”

Tsipras famously tried to tear up previous austerity accords upon coming to power in January, eventually backing down in July after the European Central Bank restricted funding to Greek banks and forced Athens to impose capital controls.