Conservatives Win Greek Elections, Try to Form Coalition

Posted June 18th, 2012 at 3:40 am (UTC-5)
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European leaders say they are hopeful Greece will be able to “quickly” form a government after pro-bailout parties won the most seats in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

The conservative New Democracy party won 30 percent of the vote to take 129 of the 300 seats in parliament, including the 50-seat bonus given to the party with the most votes.

The radical leftist, anti-bailout Syriza party came in second with 71 seats, while the pro-bailout PASOK Socialists won 33 seats – likely enough to help form a ruling coalition.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement the European Union looks forward to working with the new government and supporting efforts to put Greece's economy on “a sustainable path.”

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaris called the result a victory for all of Europe.

“Today the Greek people expressed their will to stay anchored with the euro, remain an integral part of the euro zone, honor the country's commitments and force their growth.”

Germany – Europe's biggest economy and a major contributor to Greece's two multi-billion-dollar bailouts – suggested Greece could get more time to comply with sharp spending cuts tied to the rescue funds.

New Democracy has promised to renegotiate the harsh austerity conditions demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party, had called for annulling the austerity package altogether, a decision that could have forced Greece to leave Europe's common currency. He made clear after the results that Syriza would move forward as an opposition party.

In Washington, a White House statement said that “as President Obama and other world leaders have said, we believe that it is in all our interests for Greece to remain in the euro area while respecting its commitment to reform.”

Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said the election result is good for Greece and the European Union as a whole.

“I am absolutely convinced that this reinforces the euro and that soon Green will feel the effects of this decision that all citizens have taken.”

Sunday's vote came after an election last month in which no party secured enough votes to form a government.

The monetary crisis in Greece, which first exploded in 2009, set off a chain reaction across Europe. Greece is now in its fifth year of recession, with unemployment spiraling to above 22 percent. Opinion polls show that Greeks overwhelmingly favor remaining in the euro, but are just as opposed to the austerity drive.