Greek coalition talks to enter 2nd day

Associated Press Modified: June 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm •  Published: June 18, 2012

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's two pro-bailout parties appeared likely Monday to agree on forming a coalition government after a bruising election watched closely because of its potential impact on the world economy, but negotiations were pushed to a second day after the head of the socialist party insisted on a broad partnership.

Sunday's vote — the second national election in six weeks — again left no party with enough votes to form a government on its own. Antonis Samaras' conservative New Democracy party won the most seats in parliament and was leading efforts to forge a coalition.

The socialist PASOK party, led by former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, came in third. But its 33 seats in the 300-member Parliament means it can form a government with New Democracy, which gained 129 seats. A coalition would have to have a minimum of 151 seats combined in order to form a government.

Both PASOK and New Democracy have said they will stick to Greece's international bailout commitments, although they want to renegotiate some of the harsh austerity measures imposed in return for the international rescue loans that have kept the country afloat since May 2010.

The election results eased concern that Greece faced an imminent exit from Europe's joint currency. A Greek exit from the 17-nation eurozone would have potentially catastrophic consequences for other ailing European nations and hurt the United States and the entire global economy.

As head of the party that came first, Samaras was given the mandate Monday to seek coalition partners. He has three days to reach an agreement, and if he fails the second party is given another three days to try. The radical left-wing anti-bailout Syriza party came in second.

"With Mr. Venizlos we agreed that within the deadline of my mandate ... a government of national salvation must absolutely have been formed," Samaras said after talks with the socialist leader. "We will of course have new meetings."

Samaras also met Monday evening with Fotis Kouvelis, the head of the small Democratic Left party that finished sixth in Sunday's vote. He said afterwards that the meeting was fruitful, and would be repeated Tuesday.

Kouvelis' party had been seen as a potential partner for PASOK and New Democracy after inconclusive elections on May 6. Those coalition talks collapsed after 10 days of wrangling, triggering last Sunday's elections.

Syriza has refused to join the other two parties in a government, saying it will not cooperate with any group that insists on implementing the harsh austerity measures taken in return for Greece's two international bailout agreements.

Continue reading this story on the...