Greece's election winner began on Monday the Herculean task of forming a government as Berlin and Brussels warned Athens to stick to austerity cuts despite the poll making clear that voters are fed up.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the chief proponent of austerity as the main way out of the eurozone crisis, said that it was “of utmost importance” that Greece stuck to its reform path although conceding this was “difficult”.
The New Democracy conservatives said that after meeting the President, party leader Antonis Samaras would “talk to all parties with a view to forming a government, except Golden Dawn”, the neo-Nazi group that entered Parliament for the first time.
Sunday's stunning election result saw a huge protest vote against the terms of Greece's two rescues, leaving Mr. Samaras few options as he seeks a “national salvation government” committed to the euro.
A new government has to be formed by May 17 or new elections will be called.
The country, in its fifth year of recession with unemployment at 20 per cent, is committed to finding in June another €11.5 billion ($15 billion) in savings over the next two years.
New Democracy and the Left-wing Pasok, which have alternated in power since 1974, saw their share of the vote collapse to 32.1 per cent from 77.4 per cent at the last election as voters supported instead a raft of anti-austerity parties.
This left the two parties, which favour sticking to the bailout terms but with easier terms, with 149 MPs in the 300-seat Parliament, insufficient for a re-run of the outgoing coalition led by technocrat Lucas Papademos.
Instead, voters angry after two years of cuts handed parties wanting to tear up the agreements a total of 151 parliamentary seats between them, including the Leftist Syriza which, with 52 seats, relegated Pasok into third place.
The others included Golden Dawn with 21 seats, the Right-wing Independent Greeks with 33 MPs and the communist KKE with 26.