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Samaras Sworn in as Greek Prime Minister

June 20, 2012

by VOA News

Conservative Antonis Samaras has been sworn in as Greece's new prime minister, leading a newly formed coalition government that intends to renegotiate the terms of an international bailout package.

Three political parties -- Samaras's New Democracy, the Democratic Left, and the socialist PASOK -- arrived at an agreement on a coalition government earlier Wednesday after two-and-a-half days of negotiations. Samaras then met with Greek President Carolos Papoulias before the swearing-in ceremony.

PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos told reporters more details about the new government will be released later in the day.

The New Democracy party won 129 of 300 seats in Sunday's parliamentary elections, but having fallen short of an absolute majority, the party was forced to negotiate a coalition government with PASOK and the Democratic Left. The three parties support international bailouts for Greece's troubled economy, but seek to renegotiate the terms of a bailout deal offered by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

The Syriza party, which took second place in the elections, opposes bailouts and has refused to join a coalition. Its leader says Greece needs to have a strong opposition and that history will prove that the bailouts and accompanying sharp spending cuts were wrong for Greece.

The monetary crisis in Greece exploded in 2009 and set off a chain reaction across Europe. Greece is now in its fifth year of recession, with unemployment more than 22 percent. Greeks have filled the streets in often violent protests against the austerity drive, which includes spending cuts, tax hikes, and firing thousands of civil servants.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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