Greek Conservatives Must Form Coalition Government

Posted May 7th, 2012 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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The head of Greece's conservative party, Antonis Samaras, has begun talks to build a coalition government soon, as European leaders urge Athens to continue respecting the terms of a financial bailout.

Greek voters on Sunday failed to hand an absolute majority to any party. But they appeared to favor parties that opposed austerity requirements imposed on Athens in return for more than $300 billion in two bailouts.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was “of utmost importance” that Greece sticks to its reform path, although she acknowledged that this was “difficult.”

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said Brussels “hopes and expects that the future government of Greece will respect the engagements that Greece has entered into.”

The two mainstream parties, the conservative New Democracy party and the left-wing PASOK party, fell just short of an absolute majority in the 300-seat parliament.

Samaras, leader of the leading vote-getter New Democracy party, has three days to form a government. If he fails, the task will go to smaller parties.

Samaras has said he backs the country's bailout commitments but has said he will press the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank to ease what he called the draconian requirements. The bailout deal, struck in February, aims to clear the way for Greece to return to financial markets by 2015.