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Greece's landmark elections: 5 takeaways
The eurozone debt crisis has produced a seismic shift in Greece, where anti-austerity voters stripped power from the parties that have run the country for decades
Greeks attend a campaign rally in Athens on Friday. The country's political parties, fiercely divided on whether to accept austerity measures, seem unable to agree on a governing coalition.
Greeks attend a campaign rally in Athens on Friday. The country's political parties, fiercely divided on whether to accept austerity measures, seem unable to agree on a governing coalition.
REUTERS/John Kolesidis
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reek voters sick and tired of restrictive austerity measures delivered a "stinging rebuke" to the debt-ravaged country's two main political parties on Sunday, plunging Greece into political turmoil. The two mainstream political groups, the conservative New Democracy party and the Socialist Pasok party, had backed the harsh conditions of the country's European bailout, but now they have lost their majority in parliament, and fringe left- and right-wing parties opposed to the austerity measures won more than 60 percent of the vote. What does this mean for Greece, and for Europe? Here, five key takeaways from the vote:  

1. Greece is leading Europe's rebellion against austerity
The deep budget cuts forced on Greece as a condition of its bailout are having "a devastating effect on ordinary Greeks," and they're clearly sick of it, says Brad Plumer at The Washington Post. Austerity measures pushed wages down and unemployment up. That's a bitter pill for any country to swallow, but it's especially distasteful in a nation "already struggling with soaring unemployment." And in some countries, such as Spain, austerity might actually be making deficits worse. The question now is, "if austerity's not working, what's the alternative?"

2. Greece's bailout is in jeopardy
Eurozone leaders, especially Germany, have "insisted on cost-cutting as a way of keeping Greece in the euro," says Mark Lowen at BBC News. But that's out the window now, as this vote made plain that "any future government here will have to — at the very least — renegotiate parts of the bailout, following the will of the majority." Of course, that might get them kicked out of the eurozone, and most Greeks won't like that, either.

3. Greek voters may be making matters worse
Greece's central problem is that "it lied to get into the euro," says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. The Greek state simply doesn't have as much money as it said it had. Staying in the eurozone has forced Greece to live through painful budget cuts, but at least it's getting "cold hard cash." If Greece gets itself kicked out of the euro, it's going to have to fix its financial problems without foreign help. If that happens, Greeks are "in for a dose of much more severe austerity."

4. Extremism is on the rise
Thanks to the Europe-wide backlash against severe budget cuts, says Anne Applebaum at The Washington Post, extremists channeling the masses' anti-austerity anger have "crept into the mainstream." Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, made major gains in this vote, and Golden Dawn, "a party whose symbol looks like a swastika... earned enough votes to enter the Greek Parliament for the first time." 

5. The country will have to hold another election
New Democracy, despite the slap in the face it took from voters, was still the top vote-getter. But its leader, Antonis Samaras, was "rebuffed by a string of anti-bailout parties" when he tried to form a coalition government, say Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas of Reuters. The far-right and far-left anti-austerity parties won't join any government he runs, and the feeling is mutual. "In the face of what looks like an intractable impasse, another election in a few weeks could be the only way out, deepening doubts about Greece's future."

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