Supreme Court judge now Greek caretaker PM

ATHENS • Top Supreme Court judge Vassiliki Thanou has been named Greece's caretaker premier ahead of early elections, the President's Office said.

Ms Thanou, who at 65 became the first woman to assume the post, took her oath of office late yesterday, and her administration is due to be sworn in today, it said.

The date for the general election - the fifth in six years - will be officially announced by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos by the end of the week, but Sept 20 is a likely choice.

Outgoing prime minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday ruled out forming a national unity government if he fails to win an outright majority in the snap elections, triggered after he resigned last week.

He dismissed suggestions that he could work with the conservative opposition New Democracy, the Pasok socialists or the centre-right Potami if the results were inconclusive.

Yesterday, the country's far-left leader also formally gave up a bid to form a coalition government, thereby allowing the President to finally set a date for early elections, after a week of political wrangling.

Popular Unity chief Panagiotis Lafazanis relinquished a mandate to form a government - accorded to him as head of the third-largest bloc in Parliament following Mr Tsipras' resignation.

"I think we can go to elections in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution," Mr Lafazanis told Mr Pavlopoulos at a meeting.

The Constitution stipulates that the three largest parties in Parliament get a shot at forming a coalition if a prime minister resigns within a year of taking power.

Both Mr Lafazanis and New Democracy used up the three days that each was allotted, despite having almost no chance of success.

Mr Lafazanis used his three days to air his anti-bailout message. Last week, his rebel far-left faction broke away from Mr Tsipras' Syriza party, taking a sixth of the lawmakers with it.

No major surveys have been published in recent weeks, but Syriza is expected to emerge once again as the largest party in Parliament after the snap elections are held.

Even so, Mr Tsipras is not expected to secure an absolute majority, which could force him to find a coalition partner - failing which a second round of elections might be held.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'Supreme Court judge now Greek caretaker PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe