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May 27, 2017

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Greece faces rocky road no matter the election results

ATHENS -- As Greeks take to the polls on Sunday in an election battle that could decide their future in the euro, the inability of warring political parties to find common ground suggests fresh turmoil ahead.

The main contenders — the New Democracy conservatives and the Syriza leftist radicals — have each pledged to form a government that will renegotiate the harsh conditions of Greece's EU-IMF bailout, but want to do so on their own terms.

The problem is that according to the last opinion polls published earlier this month, neither party will be able to govern without allies, and the forging of even a shaky coalition government is far from guaranteed, analysts said.

"If New Democracy is the first party, the possibility of having a coalition government is a little easier than if the first party is Syriza," said Vassiliki Georgiadou, a political science lecturer at Panteion University in Athens.

"But both scenarios are not very easy," she said.

She said a coalition should ideally involve three parties to be stable, with the socialists Pasok and the Democratic Left seen as the potential kingmakers.

"It has to be legitimized by a broad majority of the citizens," she said.

Any government will face a virtually impossible balancing act between public clamor for an easing of the austerity imposed in the last two years and the insistence by EU-IMF creditors that Greece must stick to the plan.

Greece has already been forced to seek bailouts twice, first for 110 billion euros in 2010 and then for 130 billion euros this year plus a 107-billion-euro private debt write-off — a total of 347 billion euros (US$439 billion).

Syriza's 31-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras has pledged to tear up the bailout deal and has already refused to cooperate with New Democracy or PASOK, who have taken turns running the country for the last four decades.

Tsipras has accused both political forces of throwing a "corruption party" in their years in power and has pledged to end a "rotten system."

His elder rival Antonis Samaras, 61, has sneered at Syriza's promises to restore wages and salaries as "comic book economics."

"Both the public, and common logic, demand that a government be formed. It can go on no longer," New Democracy chief Samaras said earlier.

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