A New Democracy got close to 30 per cent of the vote, followed by anti-bailout Syriza on 27 per cent. It may not sound like a big victory, but the winning party gets a bonus of 50 seats in parliament to give them an advantage in forming a ruling coalition. It is that bonus which should give New Democracy a slender majority if it forms a coalition with Pasok, a former ruling party that got more than 12 per cent of the vote.
Q What does that mean for government finances?
A The government needs the EU’s bailout cash, otherwise it will run out of money in mid-July. If this coalition is formed successfully, it will receive the cash. Indeed, the conditions might be easier than first thought – Germany’s finance minister said the government may be charged a lower interest rate.
Q Does the mean the crisis is over?
A Not at all. This was a major hurdle and Greece will now not leave the euro – for now, at least. However, the alternative may be just as bad – the country has to press on with tough economic reforms and government spending cuts, in the middle of a very deep recession and with youth unemployment at over 50 per cent.
PROFILE: ANTONIS SAMARAS
THE man who appears to hold Greece’s future in his hands this morning is an experienced economist with more than 35 years of experience at the forefront of Greek politics.
Leader of the New Democracy party since 2009, Samaras began his political career as an MP for the south western Messenia region in 1977.
A hawkish Conservative whose pre-election promises included stopping the “invasion of illegal immigrants", Samaras served as minister of both finance and of foreign affairs in the Greek parliament in the early 1990s. He then spent 10 years in exile from the party – breaking off and forming his own rival faction after internal disagreements in the wake of the Yugoslavia’s break-up saw New Democracy fall from power in 1993. He rejoined the party in 2004 and won back his seat in parliament three years later, this time rising quickly to the top via a stint as minister of culture.
All eyes will be on Samaras over the next few days as he attempts to form a government for the second time in as many months, having failed in early May to secure enough support.
He’ll have to endure tough negotiations in the coming days, but will be happy to be short of one: former Prime Minister George Papandreou, his classmate at Amherst College but political rival since.