New Democracy may have won the largest share of the vote in the Greek elections which have held markets in thrall for weeks — but leader Antonis Samaras is unlikely to be cracking open the ouzo quite yet.
Samaras vowed that the new government would be "made of New Democracy first and foremost" after Sunday night’s close election. He also extended the hand of friendship to other parties including main rival Syriza and said: "All of the political parties should now come together because I believe the Greek citizens have voted in a responsible manner."
Crowds of supporters chanted "Here is the Prime Minister!" as he arrived to address the press on Sunday night. Yet coalition negotiations mean that it could be more than a week before he forms a government.
There has been speculation for months that Samaras is too divisive a figure to lead the country, so he may not emerge from negotiations as Prime Minister, despite months of determined campaigning.
Evangelos Venizelos, leader of Pasok, the left-wing party which has been New Democracy’s chief rival for decades, said immediately following the result that it would not enter a coalition without Syriza, which overtook it as the biggest party on the left.
Syriza declared its intention to not enter any pro-bailout government. Its leader Alexis Tsipras, who was catapulted onto the international stage after Syriza’s shock gains in May’s inconclusive election, may feel that the relatively new party is not yet ready for government.
"We will follow as the opposition party. We’re here to defend the Greek citizens as an opposition party," Tsipras said. He could be much more potent in opposition than in government.
Venizelos’ speech could be political posturing to ensure better positioning within the government, as a New Democracy-Pasok coalition — similar to the current technocratic government but with added democratic legitimacy — has looked like the most likely outcome for weeks.
Together the parties would hold 161 out of 300 seats — 178 if they were joined by the Democratic Left, a more centrist left-wing party, according to estimates by Singular Logic. Including Syriza, who will have 72 seats according to Singular Logic, left-wing parties will hold around 134 seats, not enough to form a grand left-wing coalition.
One alarming facet of the results was Golden Dawn, the extreme right-wing party whose spokesman famously hit two women on television, getting 7 percent of the vote and 18 seats.
“The country does not want anyone to call into question its place in Europe. The country rejects this climate of fear and it wants its citizens to be rewarded,” Samaras said.
“We have reached a critical stage for Greece and the European Union,” he warned.
There are many on the ground on Athens who feel that Tsipras may just be biding his time until another election is called. After all, the two traditional parties have not proved particularly adept at solving the crisis so far. Many of the measures brought in by the technocratic government have created more problems for the Greeks, and a party which remains untainted by the increasingly unpopular bailout could perform even better in the next election.
“We as a party will win the day,” he said.