ATHENS -- The conservative New Democracy party won a narrow first-place finish in Greece's parliamentary election over Syriza, the radical-left group that had vowed to dismantle multibillion-dollar economic rescue accords and harsh austerity measures demanded by fellow Eurozone nations.
European officials had warned that anti-austerity measures could lead to Greece being expelled from the single-currency organization, but the threat becomes somewhat less likely because of New Democracy's first-place finish. The center-right party did not earn enough parliamentary seats to govern on its own, but it now could form a coalition with other groups willing to honor bailout deals, among them the socialist PASOK party, which came in third.
With 30% of the vote counted, New Democracy had 29.5% of the vote, Syriza, 27.1% and PASOK, 12.4%.
In a victory speech, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said, "Today the Greek people expressed their will to stay anchored with the euro, remain an integral part of the Eurozone, honor the country’s commitments and foster growth. This is a victory for all Europe. I call upon all political parties that share those objectives to join forces and form a stable new government."
In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying: "We congratulate the Greek people on conducting their election in this difficult time. We hope this election will lead quickly to the formation of a new government that can make timely progress on the economic challenges facing the Greek people.
"As President Obama and other world leaders have said, we believe that it is in all our interests for Greece to remain in the euro area while respecting its commitment to reform. Going forward, we will engage Greece in the spirit of partnership that has guided our alliance and the friendship between our people.
-- Anthee Carassava and Henry Chu
Photo: Greek New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras speaks to the media Sunday in Syntagma Square in Athens. Credit: Alexandros Vlachos / EPA