PARIS (Reuters) - The head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, lamented on Monday the decision by Greek leftist Alexis Tsipras to renew a coalition with the small right-wing Independent Greeks party.
Tsipras stormed back into office with an unexpectedly decisive election victory on Sunday, claiming a clear mandate to steer Greece’s battered economy to recovery.
The vote ensured Europe’s most outspoken leftist leader would remain Greece’s dominant political figure, despite having been abandoned by party radicals last month after he caved in to demands for austerity to win a bailout from the euro zone.
Speaking to France Inter radio, Schulz said he could not understand Tsipras’ decision to bring the Independent Greeks, who polled less than 4 percent of the vote, back into government.
“I called him (Tsipras) a second time to ask him why he was continuing a coalition with this strange, far-right party,” Schulz said.
“He pretty much didn’t answer. He is very clever, especially by telephone. He told me things that seemed convincing, but which ultimately in my eyes are a little bizarre.”
Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos says the bailout by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund has reduced Greece to the status of a debt colony.
The party differs from Syriza on many traditionally conservative issues, pledging to crack down on illegal immigration and defend the close links between the Orthodox Church and the state.
Schulz said he admired Tsipras for the way he had navigated through the last year to get himself re-elected, but said Kammenos was a loose canon who always needed to be controlled.
“It’s politically and strategically something that you have to admire,” he said. “But after ... this renewed mandate with this far-right, populist party, that I don’t understand.”
Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Angus MacSwan