The pro-bailout New Democracy party has come out on top in Greece’s parliamentary elections, having gained 29.6 per cent of the votes. With nearly all the votes counted, the anti-austerity leftist Syriza party is trailing on 26.9 per cent.
The results have kept fears of Greece’s imminent exit from the eurozone at bay for the time being. “The Greek people today voted for Greece to remain on its European path and in the eurozone,” New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said after his party had won, AP reports. He added that voters had chosen “policies that will bring jobs, growth, justice and security.”
The pro-bailout Socialist PASOK party came third with 12.3 per cent of the votes. The far-right Golden Dawn part won 6.9 per cent.
"I am relieved. I am relieved for Greece and Europe. As soon as possible we will form a government," Reuters quoted Samaras as saying as he left his office.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has conceded the election and has reportedly called Samaras to congratulate the conservatives on their victory.
The party that comes in first secures an extra 50 parliamentary seats, which will be crucial to its chances of forming a new government.
The center-left party, Pasok, which is heading for 33 seats according to early results, is a potential partner for conservative New Democracy in a possible pro-bailout coalition government.
Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos has proposed a four-party coalition, saying that that Greece should form a government tomorrow and that Syriza should also be in it. However, Syriza officials have said they would not join a New Democracy-led coalition.
The results, if confirmed, may give both parties enough support for them to team up to form a government with a majority of 159 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament.
"I will make sure that the sacrifices of the Greek people will bring the country back to prosperity," Antonis Samaras said at a press-conference.
‘The only solution at this point is the formation of coalition government,” political analyst and journalist Christos Loutradis told RT. The main problem at this point is not the anti-bailout Syriza party, which came in third place, but the stance of the Socialist party PASOK, he believes.
“Until Wednesday or Friday we have to form a coalition government because someone has to negotiate with the Europeans for the IMF bailout plan.”
The election was the second in six weeks, and was called after a vote on May 6 resulted in no party winning enough votes to form a government.
However, the vote is likely to decide not only Greece’s fate, but the future of the entire 17-member eurozone. If Greece leaves, it could spark a panic in other debt-stricken European nations like Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy.
Polls show that most Greeks favor staying in the euro and all the main parties would like to keep Greece in the single currency bloc. At the same time Syriza believes it can renegotiate the bailout deal with the country’s creditors.
Syriza's Alexis Tsipras had called for the annulling of the austerity package that is keeping Greece from defaulting on its debts.
"We propose to upset the austerity measures and the bailout," Tsipras said, adding, "this is the only viable solution for Europe".
Greece's creditors say a new government must accept the conditions of the €130billion ($164billion) Greek bailout agreed in March or funds will be cut off, driving Athens into bankruptcy.