Greece was facing the prospect of fresh elections after the party that finished first in Sunday’s vote failed to form a coalition to steer the heavily indebted country through the next round of negotiations with its international creditors.
Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, admitted defeat in talks to form a government after being rebuffed by anti-austerity parties who made spectacular electoral gains. His party finished first but with a much reduced share of the vote.
“I did whatever I could to secure a result but it was impossible,” he said in a televised address after a day of meetings with other leaders.
New Democracy and Pasok, which alternated control of Greece for 38 years, lacked the combined strength for an absolute majority in the 300-seat parliament after a being firmly rejected by voters angry at their six-month coalition which passed the recovery plan.
Mr Samaras said he had “returned the mandate” to head of state, President Carolos Papoulias, who will today invite Alexis Tsipras, the charismatic 37-year-old head of Syriza, an acronym for the Radical Left Coalition, to form a coalition after it finished in a surprise second place.
Mr Tsipras said he would seek to form a Left-wing alliance to reject the loan agreement’s “barbaric” austerity measures, which have seen government wages and pensions cut by up to 30 per cent.