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Monday, December 5, 2016

By Lefteris Papadimas

ATHENS (Reuters) — Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos is expected on Friday to call a snap election for next month, an official at the presidency told Reuters, ending fruitless coalition efforts among parties deeply divided over the country’s new bailout.

Following last week’s resignation of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Pavlopoulos asked a conservative and a radical left leader to try to form a new government and thereby avoid another election just seven months after the previous poll.

The official stressed on Wednesday that the timetable could still change, but said Pavlopoulos intended to appoint a caretaker premier, Supreme Court judge Vassiliki Thanou, on Friday. Thanou would become Greece’s first female prime minister, albeit briefly.

“The same day the president will announce the election date and it will probably be Sept. 20. The president wants the process to be fast and have elections as soon as possible,” the official said.

Tsipras, who during his seven months in office took Greece to the brink of financial collapse and exit from the euro, resigned in the hope of crushing a far-left rebellion in his Syriza party and strengthening his grip on power through a snap election.

Syriza says it is aiming for an outright majority, although the strength of its support is unclear due to a lack of surveys by leading pollsters in the past month. Last week, 25 out of Syriza’s 149 lawmakers walked out to form a new anti-bailout party.

Tsipras had to rely on temporary support from the opposition to get the 86 billion euro ($98 billion) bailout program through parliament.

Almost a third of Syriza lawmakers refused to back the deal, objecting to onerous austerity and reform conditions demanded by Greece’s creditors from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund.

(writing by David Stamp; editing by Gareth Jones)

Photo: Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (R) welcomes the leader of conservative New Democracy party Vangelis Meimarakis before their meeting in the presidential palace in Athens, Greece, August 21, 2015. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov