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Greek Parties Struggle To Form New Government

With the future of Greece's internationally mandated austerity measures hanging in the balance, the prospects for a new government in Athens are rapidly fading just four days after inconclusive parliamentary elections.

The elections left no clear winner. The conservative New Democracy party, which won the most votes, and the Radical Left Coalition, or Syriza, which came in second, have both already tried and failed to form a government. The baton now passes to the traditionally dominant socialist PASOK party, which came in a distant third in Sunday's polling.

The insistence by Syriza's head, Alexis Tsipras, that any new government reject the country's tough austerity program, has so far made it impossible to hammer out a coalition. The leaders of the other two parties have argued that the end of austerity would result in Greece having to withdraw from the eurozone and abandon the euro currency – a move that many experts say would spark chaos.

Greece agreed to the unpopular austerity measures in exchange for billions of euros from European Union countries, led by economic powerhouse Germany, as well as the International Monetary Fund. The measures include deep cuts in salaries and pensions.

But, as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, some Greeks think the time is ripe to go it alone:

The Greek political impasse worries international leaders, but many Greeks seem relieved after punishing an entrenched 2-party system. A new self-confidence is emerging after 3 years of German-dictated wage and pension cuts and tax hikes that could help the country endure an exit from the eurozone.

PASOK has three days to try to form a new government. The end-game, according to The Associated Press:

If [...] efforts fail, President Karolos Papoulias will convene all the leaders in a last-ditch attempt to cobble together a coalition. If that is also unsuccessful, new elections will be called for early June, prolonging the political uncertainty.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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