In a sign of public anger over stringent austerity reforms, Greece's two largest parties have suffered heavy election losses. The result is a blow to eurozone hopes that Athens will stick to its austerity commitments.
Greeks angered by the deep and protracted economic crisis punished the ruling coalition in the country's general elections on Sunday by shifting support to anti-bailout parties. Updated unofficial projections indicated that Greece's two main parties have suffered dramatic election losses.
The conservative New Democracy, led by Antonis Samaras was shown to be leading with 18.9 percent of the vote and 108 seats in the 300-member parliament. It fell short of the 151 seats needed to form a government.
The formerly majority socialist PASOK party was leapfrogged, meanwhile, by the left-wing, anti-bailout Syriza party which was projected second with 16.8 percent and 51 seats. That was more than triple the 4.9 percent it secured in the last polls in 2009.
PASOK lagged behind in third place with 13.4 percent and 41 seats, down from the 44 percent they won three years ago.
The neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn party, which has been campaigning on an anti-immigration platform, is projected to win 7 percent of the vote, giving it 22 deputies in Parliament. It would be the first time the party would enter parliament since the end of the military junta in 1974.
ASOK calls for unity government
With no outright majority, a coalition government will have to be formed and days of negotiations are expected to hammer out the details.
"A coalition government of the old two-party system would not have sufficient legitimacy or sufficient domestic and international credibility if it would gather a slim majority," PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said.
"A government of national unity with the participation of all the parties that favor a European course, regardless of their positions toward the loan agreements, would have meaning."
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, meanwhile, said he would form a national salvation government which would seek certain amendments Greece's multibillion dollar bailout agreement.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said he wanted to form a left-wing coalition and overturn the terms of Greece's bailouts.
The projected result come as a major blow to eurozone hopes that Greece's new administration will be able to maintain Greece's austerity drive and implement more cuts demanded by the country's creditors.
Samaras called for a coalition government with two aims: for Greece to remain in the euro and to amend the terms of its international bailout, while Tsipras said the drubbing of New Democracy and PASOK, which had signed Greece's loan agreements, meant "their signatures have lost legal legitimacy by the popular vote."
"The people have rewarded a proposal made by us to form a government of the Left that will cancel the loan agreements and overturn the course of our people toward misery," Tsipras said.
Greece has received two international bailouts worth 240 billion euros ($314 billion) under the condition that it imposed far-reaching austerity measures that have raised the ire of the population. It must put in place even more austerity measures next month if it is to prevent a default and a potentially disastrous exit from the euro.
For the past six months, New Democracy and PASOK have ruled jointly in an uneasy coalition under technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
The coalition government was formed with the sole mandate of securing the country's second bailout and a massive bond swap deal with private creditors that reduced national debt by 107 billion euros ($140 billion).
Greece is in recession for a fifth consecutive year and unemployment is above 21 percent.
ccp, sej/ncy (AP, AFP)