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(Reuters)

Greece Names Interim Prime Minister to Lead the Country to Snap Election

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Greece on Thursday named Vassiliki Thanou Christopoulou, head of the country's Supreme Court, as interim prime minister, with the task of leading the country to an election.

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A presidential decree for the dissolution of Parliament and the announcement of the vote is expected to be posted outside Parliament on Friday, after the interim government is sworn in, though the election is expected to take place on Sept. 20.

Mrs. Christopoulou, 65 years old, is the first woman to serve as Greek premier, after being named president of the high court on July 1

After Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned last week in a bid to trigger a snap election in late September, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos gave opposition New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis and then Panagiotis Lafazanis, the leader of the newly formed Popular Unity party, the task of building a coalition to form a government. On Thursday, Mr. Lafazanis returned his mandate, as both parties want to delay an election.

Before handing over the premiership, Mr. Tsipras on Wednesday said he hopes to return to power with an absolute majority.

He said that even if he achieves a slim majority in the country's 300-seat parliament, he would still look to form a coalition.

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Mr. Tsipras faces a challenge in warding off a disintegration of his Syriza party, as many lawmakers and party members haven't decided whether they will run in the election.

Last week, 25 of Syriza's 149 members of Parliament formed the Popular Unity party, completing a divorce that had been looming since July, when Mr. Tsipras agreed to the austerity-heavy terms of Greece's European creditors, despite his party's long-standing campaign to put an end to the harsh measures.

"It is a sad outcome, but not an unexpected one," Mr. Tsipras told local Alpha TV on Wednesday.

" What makes me sad is the attempt by the inner enemy to become the main enemy," he said, adding that he was hurt that many of his ex-Syriza colleagues, who a few weeks ago feared a banking collapse, are now criticizing him.

Apart from Syriza's hard-liners, members of another fraction within Syriza, the Group of 53, were this week considering whether to stand aside in the electoral battle.

The Group of 53, formed in mid-2014, stands ideologically between the hard-line Left Platform and Mr. Tsipras's relatively pragmatic group of core backers. Many of its members have been close aides to the party leader, but some abstained during the mid-August vote on Greece's third bailout deal with the country's creditors. Even if the group decides to stick with Syriza, it is expected to act as an opposition faction within the party.

(By Nektaria Stamouli)