With almost all the votes counted in the European Parliament elections, SYRIZA has a 3.8 percentage point lead over New Democracy but Prime Minister Antonis Samaras insists this is not enough to trigger early general elections.
Support for SYRIZA stood at 26.5 percent, while New Democracy was on 22.7 percent based on almost 95 percent of ballots being counted. Golden Dawn came third with 9.3 percent and PASOK’s center-left Elia alliance came fourth with 8 percent.
This meant that the two coalition parties had a higher combined vote than SYRIZA.
Also, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said SYRIZA’s failure to increase its share of the vote from the June 2012 general elections meant that there was no question of the government being able to carry on.
“Those who tried to turn the EU election into a plebiscite failed,” Samaras said in a brief televised address. “They failed to create conditions of instability, uncertainty and political ungovernability.”
He pledged that the government would heed the messages from Greek voters during the European vote, as well as in the second round of local elections that also took place on Sunday.
“I know we have been through two difficult years,” added the premier. “I have travelled throughout Greece and listened to citizens. I understand their problems and I known what must change. We will move forward as quickly as possible.”
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos adopted a similar position, saying SYRIZA’s “blackmail” had failed. “SYRIZA’s rhetoric was met with indifference by the majority of people,” he said as Elia, or Olive Tree, performed slightly better than opinion polls had suggested.
Opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, however, interpreted the Sunday’s result as a clear win for SYRIZA and said it raised questions about whether the government could continue.
“With what moral and political legitimacy will Mr Samaras negotiate the issue of debt relief based on these percentages?” asked Tsipras. “With what moral and political legitimacy will he impose new, tough measures and the new memorandum he has agreed but is keeping locked up in his drawer?”
The SYRIZA leader called for general elections “as soon as possible.”
Sunday’s elections also confirmed the arrival of the centrist To Potami (The River) on the political scene. The newly formed party led by journalist Stavros Theodorakis gained 6.6 percent of the vote.
“To Potami will challenge for the responsibilities that a new political force, which has no loans from the past but has young people, must challenge for with the aim of changing everything,” said Theodorakis.
To Potami was followed by the Communist Party (KKE) on 6 percent and Independent Greeks on 3.4 percent.
The results mean SYRIZA will elect six MEPs, New Democracy five, Golden Dawn three, Elia, KKE and To Potami two and Independent Greeks one.