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Greek parties try to form government as stocks tank over fears of another election
ATHENS, Greece (AP) ' Fierce political rivalries kept Greece from resolving its leadership crisis as an anti-bailout party refused Monday to return to power-sharing talks.
For the ninth straight day, Greek party leaders were struggling to form a coalition government, riven by differences over the harsh austerity measures demanded by international creditors in return for rescue loans. The impasse means the debt-stricken country is facing the prospect of another national election next month after holding an inconclusive ballot May 6.
Talks led by President Karolos Papoulias failed Sunday to break the impasse, and he invited party leaders back Monday evening to try again.
The turmoil in the eurozone nation took a toll on markets across Europe, with shares on the Athens Stock Exchange down 4.4 percent at 584.29 in afternoon trading.
The conservative New Democracy party had the most votes in the May 6 election, but no party received even 20 percent of the votes, and any coalition would need a combined 50 percent. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza party that finished second, has refused to join a coalition that accepts the terms of the international bailout. He wants to scrap or renegotiate the deal.
"They are looking for an accomplice to continue their catastrophic work," Syriza spokesman Panos Skourletis told Mega television. "We will not help them."
Many see more elections as inevitable. If anti-austerity parties were to gain more support and be able to govern, that could prompt a rift in the 17-nation eurozone and raise the risk of a Greek exit from the shared currency. Nobody knows how catastrophic that could be for Europe or the global economy.
"There's been a frenetic rise in the number of people predicting the country's exit from the euro," Greece's top-selling newspaper, Ta Nea, said in an editorial. "The dramatic drop in state revenues during the election campaign and the serious souring of the atmosphere in Europe toward Greece mean that after almost certain repeat elections there will be a need for even tougher austerity measures."
Shut out of main debt markets, Greece is surviving on rescue loans from other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund, who have repeatedly warned that payments will continue only as long as the country continues to cut its spending.
Greece's two traditionally dominant parties, New Democracy and the Socialist PASOK, lost significant support in the May 6 elections as Greece suffers through a fifth year of recession, with more than one in five of its citizens out of work.
Syriza finished second in those elections, and its support has grown since. In a poll published Monday, Syriza had 20.5 percent of public support, compared with 19.4 percent for New Democracy and 11.8 percent for PASOK. The margin of error was 3.1 percent for the Rass poll of 1,002 people, conducted May 10-11 for the Eleftheros Typos newspaper.
New Democracy and PASOK could form a government without Syriza if they had the support of the small Democratic Left party ' but that party has refused to join any government that doesn't include Syriza.
"The president has invited us to a new meeting and I will attend," Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis told Antenna television. "I will repeat my position: that without the participation of the second-largest party (Syriza), the government would not have sufficient popular and parliamentary support."