ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Marathon efforts to break Greece's post-electoral paralysis are lurching into a ninth day amid the country's worst crisis in decades, with fractious party leaders summoned to a yet another emergency meeting Tuesday that could see the reins of government surrendered to non-politicians.
The hectic haggling in Athens cast a deep gloom over global markets, which fell Monday on fears that the debt-crippled country will have to hold another election within weeks — the only way out if squabbling party leaders fail to strike a power-sharing deal.
That would squander vital time earmarked for reforming Greece's fast-shrinking economy. In return for the two massive international bailouts that are its only shield from bankruptcy, Greece has committed to implement further cutbacks. It will otherwise face the catastrophic prospect of bankruptcy and an ignominious exit from the euro, which would cause unknown consequences for Europe and the world.
European finance ministers on Monday urged Athens to struggle on with its reform schedule, warning that a euro exit was no longer inconceivable.
On May 6, a Greek electorate exhausted by nearly 2 1/2 years of constant income cuts, tax hikes and horrific unemployment expressed its anger in the voting booth.
Greeks lashed out at the two mainstream parties widely blamed with dismal fiscal stewardship that ended the decade of prosperity since Greece's adoption of the euro in 2001. Instead, citizens backed a bevy of small anti-austerity parties — ranging from the Stalinist left to the least salubrious tendrils of the right — but gave no single group enough seats to control Parliament.
Late Monday, President Karolos Papoulias convened the three heads of the only clearly pro-European parties, the first-place conservatives, the Socialist PASOK and the Democratic Left, to try to agree on a coalition government of technocrats or respected personalities, with broad parliamentary support.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said after the meeting that six of the seven parties that elected legislators would be invited to new emergency talks hosted by Papoulias on Tuesday afternoon. He did not list among the invitees the extremist right-wing Golden Dawn group, which — despite its taste in insignia, slogans and creed — adamantly rejects the neo-Nazi tag.
"The effort to form a government continues. All three of us political leaders agreed that it is absolutely necessary to have the broader support of political parties to attain such a viable government," conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said.
"The people have given us a very clear mandate: We must try, as far as we can, all of us together, to shape this new government," Samaras added. "Everyone must now assume their historic responsibilities."
Papoulias launched his last-ditch bid to find a solution on Sunday, after a week of party talks proved fruitless. If it doesn't work, the country will have to hold new elections in June.
The turmoil has roiled international markets and led Greece's battered stock exchange to nose-dive over the past week. The benchmark General Index shed a further 4.56 percent Monday, closing below the 600-point mark at 584.04 points.