Greece struggles to form coalition government following elections

Efforts by Greek President Karolos Papoulias to broker a coalition government appeared Sunday to have ended without a breakthrough, increasing the possibility of new elections. Leaders of the three biggest parties left talks with Papoulias on Sunday without speaking to the press.

The leaders of the three biggest parties in the incoming parliament have all tried and failed in the last week to come up with a governing coalition.

Antonis Samaris, the leader of the center-right New Democracy party, said Sunday that the voters had called for collaboration, change, and staying within the eurozone, the group of 17 European countries that use a common currency.

Europe is keeping a nervous eye on Greece, fearing that the political chaos there could lead to defaults on debt that could threaten the future of the euro. Greek failure -- or refusal -- to make debt payments could hurt banks across Europe.

If no government can be cobbled together by May 17, new elections must be called. They would take place next month.

Four out of five voters said they would vote the same way in a new election, according to a poll published Saturday by the newspaper Kathimerini.

In a separate poll published Sunday by the newspaper Vima, seven out of 10 people said they wanted the parties to form a coalition government.

But this could still be problematic as the Democratic Left has previously said it will only join a coalition if Deep uncertainty surrounds the political situation in Greece after large numbers of voters in last Sunday's election backed parties opposed to the country's bailout deal.

Severe austerity measures are required under the terms of the bailout, agreed to by the outgoing coalition government of PASOK and New Democracy.

Headlines in Saturday's papers talk about "Elections on the Titanic" and "Opening the door to an exit from the euro."

Greece has been forced to impose punishing austerity measures to get international loans that have kept it from defaulting on debts so far.

But last week's election results were widely seen as a message to politicians to back away from the economic measures, which include policies to cut spending and raise taxes to reduce public debts.
Seven parties won seats in parliament, but none captured more than 19% of the vote, leading to a week of political turmoil.

The stakes are potentially huge for the rest of the eurozone, the group of 17 European countries that use the euro as single currency.

There is concern that the lack of leadership could jeopardize Greece's bailout agreement. That could lead to a disorderly default by Greece, which would force the nation out of the eurozone.

A default by Greece also could drag down other troubled governments such as Spain and Portugal. The eurozone economy is fragile, and any financial shock could plunge the region into a deep recession, a development that would ripple across the globe.