ATHENS, Greece - The smoldering debate over European austerity flared hotter Tuesday as the left-wing politician trying to form a new Greek government declared that his country was no longer bound by its pledges to impose crippling cutbacks in return for rescue loans.
The comments by Alexis Tsipras flew in the face of European Union leaders' insistence on fiscal discipline and sent Greek stockst tumbling just two days after Greek voters rejected mainstream pro-austerity politicians. Instead, the people backed a hodgepodge of parties from the Stalinist left to the neo-Nazi right but produced no clear winner in parliament.
Tsipras also demanded an examination of Greece's still-massive debt and a moratorium on repayment of the part of it that is "onerous," statements that rattled investors and drove Greek shares down 3.6 percent on top of Monday's nearly 7 percent loss. Markets in France, Italy, Germany, and the United States also fell.
"The pro-bailout parties no longer have a majority in parliament to vote in destructive measures for the Greek people," said Tsipras, 38, whose anti-austerity Radical Left Coalition party came in second in Sunday's vote. "The popular mandate clearly renders the bailout agreement invalid."
Tsipras is the second Greek party leader in as many days to try to form a government. If no coalition can be found, elections will be held in a month, with the political instability boding ill for Greece's hopes of staying solvent and within the 17-nation eurozone.
Moving to stamp out signs of increasing discontent in crisis-stricken countries, the EU and Germany - the biggest contributor to the EU's crisis fund - urged members to stick to their agreed budget cuts.
Tsipras' party came in second Sunday, winning 52 of parliament's 300 seats with 16.8 percent of the vote. He has the presidential mandate to try to end the political impasse by forming a governing coalition by Thursday.
Antonis Samaras, head of the winning conservative party that has 108 seats, gave up on the same task after just a few hours Monday when Tsipras spurned his advances.