Anti-austerity ballot backlash rattles euro zone
By Lefteris Papadimas and Paul Taylor
ATHENS/PARIS (Reuters) - An anti-austerity backlash by voters in Greece and France shook the euro zone on Monday, causing jitters for the euro currency and stock markets amid deepening doubts about whether Greece has a future in the single currency.
Greece, where Europe's sovereign debt crisis began in 2009, slid into turmoil after an election on Sunday boosted left and right-wing fringe parties, stripping the two mainstream parties that backed a painful EU/IMF bailout of their parliamentary majority.
Uncertainty over whether the country could avert bankruptcy and stay in the euro deepened on Monday when Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party which won the biggest share of the vote, failed within hours to cobble together a government.
Samaras had had three days to form a coalition. However, his call for a national unity government to keep Greece in the euro zone but renegotiate the bailout programme fell on deaf ears.
Rebuffed by a string of anti-bailout parties, Samaras admitted defeat shortly after President Karolos Papoulias had given him the mandate to negotiate a coalition.
"It was impossible," he told reporters. "I handed back the mandate." Next in line to try to form a government will be Left Coalition leader Alexis Tsipras, whose party came second on a platform of rejecting the austerity conditions of Greece's latest bailout programme.
However, European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said: "Full and timely implementation of the programme is of the essence in order to meet the targets and (reach) sustainability of the Greek debt.
The Greek result overshadowed France's presidential election, in which Socialist Francois Hollande, who wants to change Europe's policy focus from austerity to restoring growth, ousted conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. Continued...