Greece was poised for political gridlock after voters punished traditional governing parties in general elections Sunday, turning to smaller anti-bailout groups and putting the indebted country's future in the eurozone at risk, dpa reported.
The two main parties that backed the bailout, the conservative New Democracy and socialist Pasok, said they would need to win the support of additional parties to form a coalition with nearly 86.2 per cent of the vote counted.
The results set off alarm bells and plunged the country into new political and economic uncertainty after the leaders of the parties that finished in first and second place immediately called for changes in Greece's international bailout terms.
Ilias Nikolakopoulos - the president of the software company Singular Logic, responsible for collecting the data from polling centres - said at least a third party would be needed to form a majority coalition.
"Even if New Democracy and Pasok form a coalition, their seats will not be enough to form a majority in Parliament since it looks they will drop down to 149 to 150 seats because many of the working-class areas of Athens have still not been accounted for," he said.
New Democracy was in first place with 19.38 per cent of the vote, or 110 seats in the 300-member Parliament, but was unable to achieve an outright majority after it saw its support drop dramatically because of widespread public anger over austerity measures.
Despite its lead, Sunday's big winner with a surge in support since the last election was the Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, headed by Alexis Tsipras, who is strongly against belt-tightening measures demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Syriza came in second with 16.47 per cent and 51 seats.
Both New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and Tsipras called for changes to Greece's international bailout deals.
Unlike Samaras, who is seeking to remain in the eurozone while renegotiating the terms of the bailout, Tsipras has opposed paying back Greece's debt and is demanding the deal be scrapped.
"The people have answered our proposal to cancel the loan agreement and change the course of the public's misery," Tsipras said.
Pasok, the second-largest party in the outgoing coalition government, dropped to a humiliating third place with 13.48 per cent and 41 seats.
Negotiations were expected to begin Monday on forming a coalition.
New Democracy, as the leading party, would get three days to seek possible coalition partners.
If those negotiations fail, the mandate would go to the second top vote getter for a further three days and then to the third-placed finisher.
If no coalition emerges, then the president would call a second round of elections, leaving Greece in a state of political uncertainty and probable chaos for the next month.
Several populist parties at both ends of the political spectrum made big gains because of voters angry over rising unemployment and repeated pay and pension cuts and tax hikes imposed as part of international bailouts.
The rightist Golden Dawn, a party with an anti-immigrant stance, was set to make its debut in Parliament after winning nearly 7 per cent of the vote and 21 seats.
Whoever emerges as Greece's leader for the next four years faces the tough task of meeting fiscal targets agreed on with the EU and IMF. They include 11 billion euros (14.6 billion dollars) of new measures that need to be approved by June.