With the dust settling on yesterday's election results only one thing is certain in Greece; the previous political era is now officially over. Both the conservative New Democracy and left wing PASOK parties who've dominated the stage for more than a generation received a drubbing at the polls. Even though New Democracy emerged as the largest party, it garnered just 18.89% (at time of writing), just over half its 2009 election share. PASOK, lead by Evengelos Venizelos suffered an even more crushing reversal, and is left with just 41 seats, down 129 from 2009.
Other losers included the far right LAOS party and conservative Democratic Alliance who both failed to reach the 3% threshold for parliamentary representation. Also the plethora of splinter groups/parties set up by expelled PASOK and New Democracy MPs failed to make any headway, with the sole exception of the hard right Independent Greeks lead by Panos Kammenos which won 33 seats.
On the other the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) came second in the polls, just a few percentage points behind New Democracy and gained 51 seats,and would be just 7 behind the conservative if it were not for the electoral rule that awards an extra 50 seats to the party with the most votes. The newly minted Democratic Left also entered parliament for the first time with 19 seats, having attracted much of its support from dissatisfied PASOK voters.
However, the official communist party KKE proved to have a disappointing night, increasing its share of the vote by less than 1%, a reflection that its old style campaign failed to reach out and convince few new voters.
The more worrying development was the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party who are set to have 21 seats in parliament. The extremist group which has been linked numerous acts of violence against immigrants and political opponents are not simply a far right formation but rather a party that believes fervently in many of the core tenants of national socialism and Hitlerite ideology. Their ascent to power allows them a place in the political mainstream and assures them airtime on TV and radio from which they can promote a platform of racial hatred and political intolerance.
With the old political order in tatters and a parliament fractured so deeply along deeply held ideological lines forming a new government will be difficult. In the immediate aftermath of the vote many party leaders rushed to deny that they'd form alliances with others. For example KKE leader Aleka Papariga came out against an alliance with SYRIZA while Kammenos ruled out possible partnership with New Democracy. On the other hand ND leader Samaras and PASOK leader Venizelos are reaching out to other political forces in the hope of creating a viable block.
What is clear is that neither the left nor the right are in a position to form a majority government of their own, and that means either new elections immediately or a fractious coalition unlikely to survive the backlash generated by the latest round of job cuts and tax hikes which are likely to the poorest hardest. In that case new elections during the summer seems unavoidable.
The irony is that the unbending demands of the troika (IMF, EU and ECB) has created exactly the situation they were most anxious to avoid, one in which Greece is unable or unwilling to implement the austerity measures that are part of the next "bailout: plan.