Syriza has demanded a renegotiation of the EU’s bailout agreement with Greece, which has resulted in higher taxes, sharp cuts in public spending and government employment and lower wages. But the party supports Greece retaining the euro as its currency. Golden Dawn has denounced repayment of the national debt but also wants Greece to remain in the euro zone.

Still to be seen in France was whether Hollande had achieved the “ample victory” that he had sought as a mandate to renegotiate the European Union’s tight budget rules and institute a “growth pact” in order to stimulate stagnant economies.

Sarkozy’s center-right Union for a Popular Movement will probably have to be reorganized after this stinging defeat. Sarkozy criticized Hollande’s plan as a recipe for failure and has announced a few months ago that he would quit politics if he loses. The party current holds a majority in the French National Assembly, but that seems unlikely to hold with legislative elections scheduled for next month.

PASOK has largely dominated Greek politics since 1981, and its devastating fall in support, likely to be attributed to its backing of the EU’s harsh austerity measures, will upend the country’s political landscape.

New Democracy had been widely predicted as the likely winner in the elections, but its slide from strength will make it difficult to form a government. Under Greek election law, if none of the top three finishers is able to establish a ruling coalition in the 300-seat parliament, President Karolos Papoulias will have to call new elections.

McClatchy special correspondent Frederic Castel contributed from Paris.

© 2012 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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