Greeks look set to return government to power

GREECE’S governing conservatives appeared headed for election victory last night, exit polls showed, despite widespread anger over devastating forest fires that killed more than 65 people last month.

With about 15% of the vote counted, the governing New Democracy party had more than 45% and the opposition socialist Pasok party 38.5%. However, several major electoral districts, including parts of the greater Athens area, were not included in the count.

Several other polling agencies conducting exit polls for private TV stations all showed similar results, projecting that New Democracy was ahead with between 40.2% and 43.7%, and Pasok was in second place with between 36.5% and 39.8%. They also said surveys indicated the right-wing nationalist LAOS party had won enough votes to enter parliament.

If confirmed, the projections would indicate a slip in support for both parties from the previous election in 2004, when New Democracy had won with 45.4%, ahead of Pasok with 40.5%.

It was likely — but not certain — that New Democracy would win enough seats in the 300-member unicameral parliament to form a governing majority by itself. It would be only the party’s second re-election in its 33-year history.

Before the election, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had ruled out forming a coalition with any other party if he did not win enough votes to form a majority government and the election resulted in a hung parliament.

Outgoing Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos felt confident: “It appears New Democracy will form a governing majority. The size of the majority will not affect how effective our government is. Even with 151 deputies in parliament, we will proceed with our reform programme.”

RASS-MARC showed LAOS winning a projected 3.5% — half a percentage point more than the minimum required for a seat in the legislature. The other two parties that were projected to remain in parliament are both left-wing — the KKE communist party and the Syriza left-wing coalition.

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