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Greece sets election date, appoints interim prime minister

Greece has appointed a senior judge, Panagiotis Pikramenos, to head a caretaker government until new elections on June 17.

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The EU and Greek flags fly in front of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece on February 17, 2012. ( Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Greece has set the date for new elections: June 17.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias and party leaders settled the schedule at a meeting this morning, the BBC reported.

They also decided who should lead Greece until then. A senior judge, Panagiotis Pikramenos, has been named interim prime minister and will appoint a cabinet shortly.

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Pikramenos will have no power to take any major decisions, Reuters explained, only to lead Greece into the elections.

"Thank you for your trust, and I believe that I am worthy of this mission," he said. "This is purely a caretaker government. However, it escapes no one that our country is going through difficult times."

If any emergencies arise, Pikramenos will have to consult with party leaders on how to handle them, the head of Greece's Communist party, Aleka Papariga, told the Associated Press.

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Parliamentary elections on May 6 failed to give any party a majority, and talks to form a coalition ended in deadlock yesterday.

Far-left coalition SYRIZA, which placed second the first time round, now looks set to win next month. An opinion poll cited by Reuters gives it 20.3 percent of the vote, while support for conservative New Democracy has fallen to 14.2 percent. Socialist PASOK, traditionally Greece's other main party, is on just 10.9 percent. 

SYRIZA opposes the austerity measures demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in exchange for bailout packages.

Fears that its probable victory could see Greece reneging on its commitments and being forced out of the euro have prompted Greeks to withdraw their money from national banks. Depositors reportedly withdrew almost $900 million from the country's banks on Monday, while President Papoulias has warned of "a great fear that could develop into a panic."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120516/greece-election-date-interim-prime-minister