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Greece moves closer to announcing election date

Published:Thursday | August 27, 2015 | 10:59 AM

ATHENS, Greece (AP):

Greece came one step closer yesterday to early elections with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos appointing the head of the country's Supreme Court as caretaker prime minister to lead the country to next month's polls.

Vassiliki Thanou, 65, was voted into office later Thursday, becoming Greece's first female prime minister. She will hold the position until a new government emerges from the vote expected on September 20.

Her appointment comes a week after outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned barely seven months into his four-year term following a rebellion in his radical left Syriza party over his agreement to austerity terms tied to Greece's third international bailout.

Syriza hardliners were furious that Tsipras signed the deal that demands even harsher spending cuts and tax hikes than those he had vowed to abolish when he was elected in January. The deal was approved with support from opposition parties.

The 41-year-old prime minister has argued he was left with no choice but to accept European creditors' demands, in order to avoid Greece defaulting on its debts and being forced out of the euro currency the country shares with another 18 European nations.

Thanou will appoint a Cabinet that will be sworn in today.

Pavlopoulos announced her appointment after parliament's three largest parties failed to find willing coalition partners. The last to hold the mandate to form a government was former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who created the new Popular Unity party last week after splitting from Syriza.

Greece has relied on funds from two bailouts by other European countries and the International Monetary Fund, totalling nearly €240 billion (US$270 billion) since 2010.

The second bailout expired earlier this year, and Tsipras insisted he could negotiate a better deal for his country. But the talks with creditors floundered and eventually collapsed in June, with Tsipras calling a referendum and urging Greeks to vote against creditor demands. They overwhelmingly did so, but the prime minister eventually signed up to even stricter demands in return for a third bailout worth €86 billion (US$97 billion).