Greek Pro-Bailout Parties Begin Coalition Talks
June 17, 2012
Alexis Tsipras, leader of the antibailout Syriza party, has conceded defeat in Sunday's parliamentary elections in Greece.
Initial results give the conservative New Democracy party 29.5 percent of the vote, following by Syriza with 27.1 percent, and the Pasok Socialist party with 12.3 percent.
New Democracy party head Antonis Samaras said the vote shows that Greeks want to remain in the eurozone.
"Today the Greek people expressed their will to stay anchored with the euro, remain an integral part of the eurozone, honor the country's commitments, and foster growth. This is a victory for all Europe," Samaras said. "I call upon all political parties that share those objectives to join forces and form a stable new government. I will make sure that the sacrifices of the Greek people will bring the country back to prosperity."
"We will work together with our partners in Europe in order to supplement the current policy mix with growth-enhancement policies. We are determined to do what it takes and do it fast," he added.
According to preliminary results, New Democracy should have about 130 seats in the 300-seat parliament. Syriza should have 71, and Pasok should have 33. The nationalist Golden Dawn party got 6.9 percent of the vote and 18 mandates, while the Democratic Left won 6.1 percent and also picked up 18 seats.
The result means that New Democracy and Pasok should be able to form a majority coalition.
However, Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos called for a "government of national responsibility" that would be stable enough to make the hard choices that lie ahead.
"There must be a government tomorrow, a government capable of securing the operation of the state, the economy, and society. A government capable of carrying out with success the second phase of negotiations with our European partners within the framework of European procedures and of leading the country to a better, not a worse, state," he said.
"That kind of government is a government of national responsibility with the participation, at least, of New Democracy, Syriza, Pasok, and the Democratic Left," Venizelos added.
Syriza leader Tsipras, however, rejected the call and said his party will remain in opposition and continue to oppose the austerity measures negotiated as part of a 130 billion euro bailout package earlier this year.
"As of Monday we will continue our battle having the confidence that the future does not belong to the terrorized but to the bearers of hope," Tsipras said. "A new day for Greece has already dawned."
Officials in Europe and Washington expressed hope a government will be formed quickly.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Samaras on his victory and said she is confident Athens will abide by its previous commitments.
Earlier on Sunday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Germany is willing to consider granting Greece more time to achieve the targets it agreed to in the bailout agreement.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a statement saying it is ready to "engage with the new government" and help Greece move forward.
Representatives of the so-called Troika -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF -- are expected in Athens soon to discuss the country's next steps.
with reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP.
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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