Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Tsipras rules out 'unnatural' grand coalition

  • Can Syriza repeat its landslide victory of last January? Polls indicate it'll be tricky (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Former Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras repeated Monday (14 September) that his radical left party Syriza will not enter into a coalition government with its main opponent, the conservative New Democracy (ND).

Such an alliance would be "unnatural", Tsipras said at a televised one-on-one debate between him and ND leader Evangelos Meimarakis.

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Opinion polls ahead of the parliamentary election on Sunday (20 September) show Tsipras and Meimarakis head-to-head, with no majority expected for either.

"The country will have a government. I will respect the results. But there will not be an unnatural government. Either the country will have a progressive government or a conservative one", Tsipras said.

Meimarakis struck a more conciliatory tone, noting the possibility of a grand coalition to help steer Greece out of its economic malaise and implement the required austerity measures in exchange for the third bailout programme agreed by Tsipras.

"We need a national team, not only in the governing of the country, but also on its direction," Meimarakis said.

Tsipras resigned as prime minister last month, and called for snap elections, after Syriza bled dry of MPs who said they couldn't support the bailout deal.

During the TV debate, Meimarakis blamed Syriza policies for the poor state of Greece's economy, while Tsipras linked Meimarakis' party to corruption scandals.

Sunday's elections are the second this year, but ND is faring comparatively better this time because of reduced support for Syriza.

"The question of the previous election, in January, was whether Tsipras’s Syriza party [would] win an outright majority" pollster Thomas Gerakis told Bloomberg last week.

"The question in this election is which one is going to win, and also the ranking of the other parties", he added.

Syriza and ND both received about 26 percent support in a poll published last Sunday, with Syriza only inching ahead with 26.7 percent against ND's 26.2 percent. This result would be a considerable setback compared with Syriza's 36.3 percent in January, but the largest party can expect a 50-seat winner's bonus.

Another coalition government is still likely.

Syriza may lose its junior government party, the Independent Greeks, if the nationalist party falls short of the parliamentary threshold of 3 percent. It stood at 3.1 percent in Sunday's poll.

Possible kingmakers may be the centre-left Pasok (6.1 percent in poll) and centrist Potami (5 percent), but there may also be an unexpected role for the country's communist party (5.9 percent) or possible newcomer Union of Centrists (3.6 percent). Syriza splinter Popular Unity is doing less well in polls than expected at 4 percent.

The neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn could remain the country's third-largest party - it is polling around 7 percent.

Greece's interior ministry announced on Monday that the second election this year would be cheaper than January's. The snap elections will cost €33.2 million, compared to the €51.1 million bill that was left after January's poll.

Tsipras launches risky election campaign

Faced with deep divisions in his party, the Greek PM gave a TV interview on Wednesday to defend the bailout agreed with Greece's lenders.

Greek election still too close to call

Left-wing Syriza and right-wing New Democracy remain neck-and-neck in opinion polls, while the number of undecided voters remains high.

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