A tight vote for the euro

FEAR of being forced out of the euro was slightly stronger than anger over continuing austerity at Sunday’s Greek election. It propelled the centre-right New Democracy party into first place, just ahead of Syriza, the radical-left coalition. With 97% of the vote counted the conservatives won 29.7% compared with 26.9% for the leftists. The PanHellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) came a distant third with 12.3% after a large chunk of its voters (public sector workers, trade unionists and pensioners) had defected to Syriza, lured with promises that the state would not be shrunk if the left came to power.

Antonis Samaras, the 61-year-old centre-right leader, was set to receive a mandate to form a government at midday today from Karolos Papoulias, Greece’s president. After two general elections in six weeks (coalition talks failed after an inconclusive vote on May 6th) a sense of urgency is evident. Global leaders who are gathering in Mexico for a meeting of the G20 group of rich and emerging countries will be watching Greek developments closely. Some see a stable coalition government in Athens as critical for European efforts to prevent the eurozone from falling apart.

Mr Samaras’s refusal to support Greece’s first bailout in 2010 means he will have to work hard at convincing eurozone leaders he is serious about completing fiscal and structural reforms required by the second €130 billion bailout, which the previous coalition government was too timid to undertake. On Sunday night, Mr Samaras sounded statesman-like. Instead of claiming victory in the election, he said: “There will be no new adventures, Greece’s position in the eurozone will not be put in doubt.”