Greece’s centre-right New Democracy party will try to form a coalition with other parties backing the international bailout after a narrow election victory over the left.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras pledged to move swiftly to form a government, telling supporters: “There is no time to waste”.
The result eased fears of a sudden exit from the euro.
Alexis Tsipras, Syriza leader, congratulated Samaras on his victory but seemed to rule out joining him in a so-called “grand coalition”, saying his party would not “sacrifice our position” of opposition to the austerity measures.
The once-mighty Socialist Pasok party, now reduced to third place, indicated it would support Samaras but had not yet decided whether to join the government or just offer parliamentary backing.
With just short of 100 per cent of ballots counted, New Democracy had won 29.7 per cent of the vote, ahead of Syriza on 27 per cent, while Pasok had 12.3 per cent.
A 50-seat bonus automatically given to the party which comes first would give a theoretical New Democracy-Pasok alliance 162 seats in the 300-seat parliament, enough for a majority broadly committed to the 130-bn-euro bailout.
Both New Democracy and Pasok have said they want to renegotiate the terms of the bailout to spread the burden over a longer period and take measures to boost growth.
Greece’s EU partners and the International Monetary Fund welcomed the pro-bailout parties’ victory, saying they were ready to work with the government that emerges. But EU officials have made clear Greece must stick to its pledges to receive more funding while hinting there may be some leeway at the margins.
“There can’t be substantial changes to the agreements but I can imagine that we would talk about the time axes once again, given that in reality there was political standstill in Greece because of the elections, which the normal citizens shouldn’t have to suffer from,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.
Even so, Greece is in a desperate situation.
Its caretaker government says the state has enough cash to last a few weeks and Athens has pledged to come up with an additional 11.7bn euros worth of spending cuts in June to qualify for the next loan instalment.
Jon Snow on Greek football euphoria ahead of the vote
"The chanting was amongst the most obscene I've ever heard. In short, Angela Merkel was being invited to put the entire Euro crisis up her posterior."
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