Conservatives win Greek election
Jun 17, 2012 / 3:00 pm
The conservative party that backs keeping Greece in the eurozone won the country's national election Sunday and immediately proposed forming a pro-euro coalition government, a development that eased, at least briefly, deep fears that the vote would unleash an economic tsunami.
As central banks stood ready to intervene in case of financial turmoil, Greece held its second national election in six weeks after an inconclusive ballot on May 6.
The vote was seen as crucial since it could determine whether Greece would leave the joint euro currency, a move that would have potentially catastrophic consequences for other ailing European nations, the United States and the entire global economy.
With 66 per cent of the vote counted, official results showed the conservative New Democracy winning 30.1 per cent of the vote and 130 of the 300 seats in Parliament. The radical anti-bailout Syriza party had 26.5 per cent and 70 seats and the pro-bailout Socialist PASOK party came in third with 12.6 per cent of the vote and 34 seats.
Syriza chief Alexis Tsipras, who had tapped into a vein of deep anger over the plunging living standards faced by many Greeks, had wanted to rip up Greece's international bailout deals and roll back the new taxes, job cuts and pension cuts imposed in the last two years.
That plan will have to wait, since the party that comes in first, New Democracy, gets the first stab at forming a new majority in Parliament. If they fail, the next highest party gets to try.
Tsipras congratulated Samaras and conceded the election.
The head of Greece's socialist PASOK party, meanwhile, proposed that a unity government be formed of four top parties, including Syriza despite its anti-bailout views.
PASOK's Evangelos Venizelos, who spent months negotiating bailouts as Greece's finance minister, suggested dumping the usual procedure of each party seeking coalition partners. He said a government must be formed quickly and suggested one between New Democracy, Syriza, PASOK and the small Democratic Left.
"There is not one day to lose. There is no room for party games. If we want Greece to really remain in the euro and get out of the crisis to the benefit of every Greek government, it must have a government tomorrow," Venizelos said after results were announced.
Greece has been dependent on rescue loans since May 2010, after it was locked out of the international markets following years of profligate spending and falsifying financial data. The spending cuts made in return for the bailout loans have left the country mired in a fifth year of recession, with unemployment spiraling to above 22 per cent and tens of thousands of businesses shutting down.
The austerity measures have included deep spending cuts on everything from health care to education and infrastructure, as well as tax hikes and reductions of salaries and pensions.
Menelaos Hadjicostis, Demetris Nellas and AP television in Athens contributed.
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