Narrow win for Greek pro-bailout right party
Calls for Greece to unite
Greece’s two main pro-bailout parties won enough votes to form a government in a cliffhanger election yesterday, first estimates showed, easing fears the stricken economy will crash out of the euro.
“Today the Greek people expressed their will to stay anchored with the euro,” said Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, which preliminary official results showed in the lead with 29.5 per cent.
“We ask all political forces which share the aim of keeping the country in the euro... to join a government of national unity,” he said at a press conference, adding: “The country does not have a minute to lose.”
Mr Samaras also pledged to honour Greece's commitments under an unpopular bailout deal that has imposed harsh austerity on many Greeks in return for a multi-billion package to keep the Greek economy on life support.
His main rival Alexis Tsipras, leader of the radical leftist anti-austerity party Syriza, conceded defeat but vowed to fight on in opposition.
“I spoke to Samaras to congratulate him. He can form a government,” said Mr Tsipras, whose party came second with 27.1 per cent of the vote.
“We will be here as the opposition, we represent a majority of people opposed to the bailout deal,” he said.
The results appeared to heed an unprecedented warning on the eve of the vote from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said it was “extremely important” that Greeks choose lawmakers who would abide by the terms of the bailout.
Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned that a victory for the radical left would have “unpredictable consequences” for the eurozone as a whole.
New Democracy would hold 128 seats in Greece’s 300-seat Parliament because of a 50-seat boost for the victor under the Greek system, early results showed.
Coalition talks are now expected to start today, with the most likely ally being the socialist Pasok party, which won an estimated 33 seats.
Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos said he was ready to join a coalition with New Democracy but only on condition that other leftist parties were included. He said the new government should be one of “national responsibility”.
Exit polls had shown a dead heat between New Democracy and Syriza, which could have left Greece in the political gridlock between bickering parties that followed elections last month and triggered this vote just six weeks later.
Greece has been forced to seek bailouts twice, first for €110 billion in 2010 and then for €130 billion this year, plus a €107 billion private debt write-off – for a total of €347 billion.
There may be some room for compromise on the tough bailout conditions.
Just as the first results filtered through, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Berlin was ready to discuss giving Greece more time.
“There can’t be substantial changes in the engagements” undertaken by Greece in the bailout deal. “But I can imagine we discuss again a delay” in achieving the targets, he said on Germany’s ARD public television.
Initial results also showed the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn had won enough votes to enter Parliament.