Firebrand Greek leftist backs new anti-bailout party

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's firebrand former parliament speaker on Monday threw her weight behind an anti-bailout party recently founded by rebels from the leftist Syriza to contest a snap election in September.

Zoe Constantopoulou, a deeply divisive figure, was widely expected to form her own movement but chose instead to back the Popular Unity party of veteran leftist Panagiotis Lafazanis.

"I will ally as an independent, as a collaborator, with the Popular Unity party which constitutes the first shield from the storm which broke since the elections were called," Constantopoulou told a press conference, as supporters held up a banner saying: "No to bailouts, Yes to Zoe."

Alexis Tsipras abruptly resigned as prime minister earlier in August, days after clinching an 86 billion euro bailout package from Greece's EU and IMF lenders, aiming to crush a rebellion by far-left lawmakers and tighten his grip on power.

Lafazanis led a group of dissident lawmakers in splitting from Tsipras's Syriza party in August to form a party dedicated to abolishing the country's foreign bailout, its third since 2010.

The breakaway party is backed by 4.2 percent of voters - above the 3 percent threshold needed to enter parliament - according to a survey by MRB pollsters published over the weekend.

Constantopoulou, who was elected parliament speaker with a record number of votes, has been seen as a constant thorn in Tsipras's side since he agreed to Greece's latest bailout in July, openly defying him in parliament.

She has also angered lawmakers from Syriza and the opposition alike by using stalling tactics to delay voting on crucial bailout legislation.

A poll last week found she has also divided the Greek public, with 55 percent of those surveyed saying they viewed her negatively.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Hugh Lawson)