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Photo by Panelis Saitas/EPA/Landov

Greek drama

Elections narrowly bring to power a pro-austerity party and a thaw with Germany

Issue: "2012 Books Issue," July 14, 2012

World stock markets breathed a sigh of relief on June 18, the day after elections that brought a victory to Greece's pro-bailout, pro-austerity parties. But the center-right New Democracy party only barely beat back the left-wing, anti-capitalist Syriza Party.

Many eurozone officials focused on the near-win of Syriza as much as the victory of New Democracy-telling the new prime minister, Antonis Samaras, to form a coalition government quickly as a hedge against continued political instability.

Samaras did move swiftly, and by his swearing-in on the Thursday after the election he had a coalition government in place, including Greece's center-left party, Pasok, and the Democratic Party of the Left.

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But will this motley coalition be able to save Greece from insolvency and expulsion from the eurozone? The election results and the swift action of Samaras appear to have made a difference to Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she would tolerate no renegotiations of earlier bailout terms. However, a few days after the election Steffen Kampeter, Germany's deputy finance minister and a confidante of Merkel, told Germany's ARD television, "It is clear to us that Greece should not be over-strained."

Samaras stepped through this crack in Germany's position and scheduled a trip to Brussels next week to meet with other eurozone leaders. No one wants to call the talks a "renegotiation," but even the Germans say they might be willing to grant a little leniency in the terms.

Samaras, an economist educated in the United States at Amherst and Harvard, knows he will need help, and not just from the Germans, to fix this crisis. Immediately after being sworn in as prime minister, he issued a statement: "We trust that with God's help we will do all we can to get our people out of the crisis."

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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