27th Jan 2023

Conservatives win Greek elections, seek coalition

  • Samaras (c) with top EU officials at a meeting of centre-right EPP parties in 2010 (Photo: EPP)

Greek Conservatives from the New Democracy party narrowly won the parliamentary elections on Sunday (17 June) with some 30 percent of the vote over the anti-bail-out Syriza party (26%), early results after counting 40 percent of the ballots show.

"I am relieved. I am relieved for Greece and Europe. As soon as possible we will form a government," New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said Sunday night, adding he would seek a grand coalition with "no preconceptions", including with the Syriza party.

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Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, the young politician who promised to annul the austerity programme accompanying the €130bn bail-out, was quick to congratulate Samaras but declined to form a grand coalition. He also refused to form a government should Samaras fail to do so.

Kingmaker in the coalition forming process is former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos from the Socialist Pasok party. If the end results confirm the preliminary score, Pasok and New Democracy would get the 151 seats needed to have a parliamentary majority. But Venizelos on Sunday insisted for Syriza to be part of the government as a precondition for Pasok to join.

"If we really want Greece to stay in euro, tomorrow we must have a government capable of conducting the renegotiation (of the bail-out terms)," Venizelos told journalists in Greece.

EU officials expect difficult talks ahead, with some room for manoeuvre possible on the deadlines for the austerity programme attached to the bail-out.

"There can't be substantial changes in the engagements" undertaken by Greece in the bailout deal. "But I can imagine we discuss again a delay" in achieving the targets, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told ARD public television on Sunday.

Greece's public finances are dependent on the €130bn bailout that is to be paid out in tranches, provided Athens sticks to the austerity programme.

Failure to meet its commitments would sever the funding, pushing Greece into a default and possibly to a 'voluntary' exit from the eurozone. Capital controls and border checks could be re-introduced, with contingency planning already carried out in several capitals and national central banks. With no legal means to push Greece out of the eurozone, however, the most likely scenario is a "muddle through" with more deadline extensions and possibly more money for Greece further down the road.

Influencing elections

EU leaders were tense ahead of the election result. German Chancellor Angela Merkel delayed her departure to Mexico for the G20 meeting until midnight, to be in reach in case of a Syriza victory.

Luxembourg's premier and chair of eurozone finance ministers Jean-Claude Juncker on Saturday told Austrian newspaper Kurier that a Syriza victory would have "unpredictable consequences" for the eurozone as a whole.

Meanwhile, one EU diplomat told this website that charges with interference in the country's sovereignty are a false debate.

"On one hand, their own elected politicians are responsible for this fiasco, for mismanaging the country, for corruption, for tax evasion. On the other, they say 'don't interfere with our democracy' - but this democracy could not take care of itself. You can't stay sovereign when bankrupt and dependent of international aid," the source said.

International spotlight on Greek elections

Europe is in wait-and-see mode as Greeks head to the ballot boxes for a vote that is set to determine the future of their country in the eurozone.


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