ND’s Samaras to have first go at forming gov’t in fragmented landscape

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is due to meet President Karolos Papoulias on Monday afternoon before beginning an attempt to form a coalition government in the wake of an election result that saw a huge swing of votes to the left and right, leaving the conservatives and PASOK without a parliamentary majority.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, New Democracy had 18.88 percent, followed by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) 16.76 and PASOK in third on 13.19.

The nationalist Independent Greeks garnered 10.6 percent, the Communist Party (KKE) 8.47 percent and the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) 6.97 percent. Democratic Left was the final party to make it into Parliament with 6.10 percent.

In terms of seats, this translates into 108 for New Democracy, which receives an extra premium of 50 seats for coming first, 52 for SYRIZA and 41 for PASOK. Independent Greeks gained 33 seats, KKE 26 and Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) 21. Democratic Left won 19 seats.

The Ecologist Greens and the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) narrowly avoided meeting the 3 percent threshold to enter Parliament, gaining 2.93 and 2.9 percent respectively.

The election result represents a dramatic defeat for New Democracy and PASOK, who approved the second bailout program Greece agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in February. In the last elections in 2009, the two parties, which have governed Greece since 1974, won a combined 79 percent of the vote but will only get about 32 percent in these elections.

The massive swing in support saw SYRIZA more than treble its support since 2009 on the back of pledges to reject the EU-IMF loan deal and call a unilateral default if necessary. There was also a surge of support for the far right Chrysi Avgi, which campaigned on a strong anti-immigrant platform and pledges to clean up Greece?s political system.

This collapse in support for ND and PASOK means they cannot form a government on their own as they are just short of the 151 seats needed.

New Democracy sources have said that Samaras will attempt to form a coalition of forces that want to keep Greece in the euro. Apart from PASOK, the only viable option for such a coalition is the pro-European Democratic Left. However, party leader Fotis Kouvelis ruled out such a possibility on Sunday night.

Samaras has until Thursday to reach a deal. It seems unlikely he will be able to sway Kouvelis, or any other party, given the rise of SYRIZA at these elections thanks to its stance against the EU-IMF memorandum.

If Samaras fails, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras will then be given the right to attempt to form a government. He said he would attempt to do so, appealing to parties that want to reject the austerity measures attached to Greece?s bailout. However, the numbers do not stack up on the anti-bailout side as the 50 seats awarded to New Democracy mean that they cannot gain a parliamentary majority.

Electoral law means PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos will also have a chance to form a government should Samaras and Tsipras fail.

If there is no outcome President Karolos Papoulias will call the party leaders and attempt to for a national unity government. If this also has no result, new elections will have to be called, possibly on June 17.