Greece’s conservative leader Antonis Samaras on Monday began talks to form a government after winning an election that sets him the task of imposing punishing austerity measures in a near-bankrupt economy while containing rising social tensions.
New Democracy leader Samaras was due to meet Evangelos Venizelos, the head of the Socialist PASOK party, at 1500 GMT after he received a mandate to form a government from the President.
The once-mighty PASOK, now reduced to third place after the dramatic rise of the radical Leftist anti-bailout party SYRIZA, said it would support Samaras but had not yet decided whether to join the government or just offer parliamentary backing.
Samaras’s narrow defeat of SYRIZA caused relief across the euro zone, where countries had said Greece’s future in the single currency depended on its meeting conditions attached to a bailout, which SYRIZA had vowed to tear up. If it had won — and claimed the 50 extra seats in Parliament for the party that placed first — it would have been impossible to form a government supporting the bailout.