Greece told to stick to bailout
5/7/2012 2:31:09 PM -
The EU and Germany have stressed Greece must keep to the terms of the two EU/IMF bailouts, after a surge of voter support for anti-austerity parties.
The two main parties, New Democracy and Pasok, attracted less than a third of the vote, in an election plunging Greece into political uncertainty.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Greece's reforms were of "utmost importance".
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras will now face a struggle finding parties prepared to join a government.
With about 99% of votes counted, centre-right New Democracy (ND) is leading with 18.9%, down from 33.5% in 2009.
A radical left coalition, Syriza, came second with 16.8% and a party of ultra-nationalists - Golden Dawn - polled almost 7%.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert spelt out Berlin's position that "the agreed programmes must be adhered to". He added that Germany would support Athens in returning to competitiveness and financial stability, "whatever its government is".
That message was underlined by European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, who said Brussels "hopes and expects that the future government of Greece will respect the engagement that Greece has entered into".
She said the Commission was ready to help Athens with its "ongoing reform agenda".
Any political instability may prompt fresh questions over the country's place in the eurozone.
ND leader Antonis Samaras is set to meet President Karolos Papoulias, who will ask him to form a government. Mr Samaras will try to form a unity government to keep the country in the euro, although he has promised to try to "amend" the bailout terms in order to boost growth.
Under the current plan, a further 11bn euros of cuts in spending are due to be found next month.
ND and the socialist Pasok have between them run Greece since the 1970s. Since November, they have been in a coalition led by technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
Pasok could manage only third place with 13.2%, down from 43.9% in the last elections and behind Syriza.
The extremist Golden Dawn party, with almost 7%, is on course for at least 20 seats in parliament.
"It is time for those that betray [Greece] to be afraid," its leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos warned. "We are coming. We are Greeks, nationalists, and we will allow no one to doubt this."
There is widespread anger across Greece at harsh measures imposed by the government in return for international bailouts.
Deal in doubt
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said he wanted to form a left-wing coalition rejecting the terms of Greece's bailouts.
"The parties that signed the memorandum (with the EU and the IMF) are now a minority. The public verdict has de-legitimised them," he said.
"Our proposal is a left-wing government that, with the backing of the people will negate the memorandum and put a stop to our nation's predetermined course towards misery."
Pasok leader and former Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos called for a broad coalition government of pro-European parties.
"A coalition government of the old two-party system would not have sufficient legitimacy or sufficient domestic and international credibility if it would gather a slim majority," he said.
"A government of national unity with the participation of all the parties that favour a European course, regardless of their positions toward the loan agreements, would have meaning."
He added: "For us in Pasok, today is particularly painful. We knew the price would be heavy and we had undertaken for a long time to bear it."
Pasok was in power when Greece negotiated the terms of its 2010 bailout of 110bn euros (£88bn; $143bn) and was in a coalition with New Democracy when it secured this year's 130bn euro deal.
In fourth place in the partial results were the new right-wing Independent Greeks with 10%.
Their leader, Panos Kammenos, has already ruled out co-operation with either Pasok or New Democracy, Athens News reported.
Coalition negotiations can take place over three days. If they fail, the party in second place can try to form a coalition, and if still unsuccessful, the third party will receive the mandate.
If still no coalition emerges, Greece will hold another election - a prospect which would alarm the country's international creditors.
The ability of any new government to carry on with the austerity programme will be crucial for Greece's continued access to bailout funds from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - the so-called troika.