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ND wins but faces challenge to govern

 Conservatives edge out SYRIZA but must find coalition partners with PASOK seemingly reluctant

Greece’s second national elections in as many months produced a victory for conservative New Democracy over leftist SYRIZA but the result still left doubts about if and how a coalition government could be formed.

With 60 percent of the votes counted, support for New Democracy stood at 30.14 percent, compared to 26.46 for SYRIZA. PASOK was third with 12.57 percent, followed by Independent Greeks on 7.43, Golden Dawn on 6.95, Democratic Left on 6.06 and the Communist Party on 4.5 percent.

Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), the Ecologist Greens and the liberal alliance between Dimiourgia Xana (Recreate Greece) and Drasi all fell well short of the 3 percent threshold needed for them to enter Parliament.

In terms of seats in the House, this share of the votes translates into 130 for New Democracy, 70 for SYRIZA, 33 for PASOK, 20 for Independent Greeks, 19 for Golden Dawn, 16 for Democratic Left and 12 for the Communist Party.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said Greece had secured its position in the eurozone, saying that the outcome of the vote was a “significant moment for Greece and the rest of Europe.”

“Greece’s position in Europe will not be put in doubt. Fear will not prevail,” he said in a speech from Zappeio Hall that he repeated immediately afterward in English.

Describing the outcome as “a stable foundation for national unity with a European direction,” he appealed to political forces “to join a government of national salvation.”

“There is no time for political games, the country must be governed,” he stated.

“We will respect the country’s signatures,” he said, adding that New Democracy would work with European leaders to boost growth and “tackle the torturous problem of unemployment.”

“The Greek people voted for policies that will create jobs, growth, justice and security,” he said.

Despite gaining the 50-seat bonus that goes to the leading party, last night’s result still leaves Samaras with plenty of work to do in order to form a government. The conservatives are far short of the 151 seats they need to govern on their own. The possibility of turning to SYRIZA to form a grand coalition was immediately rejected by leftist leader Alexis Tsipras, who insisted that his party should remain in opposition, from where it can combat the austerity measures Greece’s lenders are demanding from Athens. SYRIZA also said that if Samaras fails to form a government, the leftists would not take up the mandate to try to form one on their own.

“We will be present in developments from the position of the main opposition party,” said Tsipras, adding, “We have opposite us an unholy alliance of yesterday’s powers, from inside and outside the country.”

“Our proposals for rejection of the memorandum are the only viable solution not only for Greece but also for all Europe,” the SYRIZA leader stated.

PASOK could be another coalition partner for ND but Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos spoke of his preference for a government of “shared responsibility.” This suggested he would like SYRIZA to join a unity administration as well. Speaking on local television last night, PASOK’s former Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou suggested that the Socialists would not enter a government if SYRIZA did not join as well. Venizelos went as far as suggesting that no party leader should attempt to form a government and that they should all proceed directly to talks chaired by President Karolos Papoulias with the aim of forming as broad a coalition as possible.

“There’s not a day to lose, there’s no time for political games,” said Venizelos. He added that PASOK had survived despite the pressure, which he attributed to “an election campaign that was artificially polarized between ND and SYRIZA.”

“We survived, both in terms of numbers, and politically,” he said.

Other options open to Samaras are to approach Independent Greeks or Democratic Left. Given that the former has a staunch anti-bailout stance, some kind of agreement seems a remote possibility.

Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis, on the other hand, interpreted Sunday’s result as one that calls for the formation of a coalition government. While his party opposes some elements of the bailout, it is fiercely pro-euro and there is potential for it to be part of a coalition with ND and PASOK.

Following the inconclusive elections on May 6, Kouvelis rejected the opportunity to join the conservatives and Socialists. He insisted that SYRIZA would also have to be part of the government.

It is not clear if Kouvelis will make this a precondition this time as well.

ekathimerini.com , Monday June 18, 2012 (00:19)  
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