New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has called for a government of "national consensus" after Greek President Karolos Papoulias gave him a formal mandate to launch coalition talks on Monday.
Under the Constitution, Samaras is required to form a government within three days, and the pro-European leader sounded optimistic when he said "a national understanding by everybody is imperative" after his meeting with the President on Monday morning.
The conservative pro-bailout New Democracy party made a remarkable comeback in Sunday's Greek parliamentary polls winning 29.7 percent of the votes, as against 18.9 percent it won in the election held six weeks ago.
Being the largest party makes it eligible for 50 extra seats, which will raise its total strength in the House to 129 seats.
The radical leftist Syriza, which opposes the austerity measures for securing a bailout, also improved its position with 26.9 percent votes (71 seats) to finish second.
The socialist PASOK party, which had partnered New Democracy in the coalition government since last November, came third with 12.6 percent, enough to secure 33 seats in the 300-member Parliament.
A New Democracy- PASOK alliance would command 162 seats in the Parliament, but Samaras called for a broader four-party coalition, including Syriza and the Democratic Left Party, which came sixth winning 17 seats.
Syriza leader Alexis Tspiras rejected the idea, and made it clear that his party prefers to sit in the Opposition, and vowed to continue its campaign against the bailout deal.
Although the Democratic Left Party is opposing the country's harsh austerity program, it has expressed willingness to "do what is needed to help form a strong government."
Samaras has made it clear that his party wants Greece to remain in the Eurozone and that the new government would honor its obligations to its lenders, but indicated that "some necessary amendments" will be made to the stringent bailout agreement "in order to relieve the people of crippling unemployment and huge hardships."
Samaras is set to begin coalition talks during a meeting with PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos scheduled for 6:00 p.m. local time.
A new government must come to power in Greece if the debt-ridden country is to get the next installment of bailout fund from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Failure to form a government for the second time in as many months poses the risk that Greece will fail to receive the loan amount, as the international lenders have warned that they will not discuss further aid disbursements until a new government is formed.
The speedy formation of a government in Greece is expected to ease the financial crisis in the country, and strengthen its shaky position in the Eurozone, which had been threatening the stability of the single currency.
by RTT Staff Writer
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