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In Greece – and elsewhere in Europe – the moderate center holds

Greeks voted to continue reform, austerity, and staying in the euro zone. It was a vote based largely on fear of the alternative. But at least it produced a workable result that Greece's creditors should now support by adjusting the timeline for debt repayment.

Workers dismantle a Pasok election campaign kiosk in Athens June 18. The center-left party said it would support the pro-bailout, pro-euro winner of Sunday's parliamentary elections, New Democracy, and its leader Antonis Samaras. Writes op-ed contributor Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff: 'This is the third vote in Europe within the last few weeks, and it points to an emerging pattern of moderation.'

John Kolesidis/Reuters

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On Sunday, the Greek electorate held its nose and voted for reform and austerity, for Europe and the euro. It was a vote based largely on fear of the alternative – not exactly a confidence inspiring motive, but at least it produced a workable result that Greece’s creditors should support.

Voters indeed faced a painful choice: Reelect the corrupt and clientelistic mainstream parties that, after having bankrupted Greece, now promise to thoroughly reform themselves and the country; or follow the siren songs of leftwing extremists who promise gain without pain, bailouts without conditions, and euro membership without solvency.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, they slightly favored the center-right New Democracy party, that, led by Antonis Saramas, came in at around 30 percent. The anti-bailout, anti-German, and nationalistic leftwing utopian group called Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipra, was not far behind, with about 27 percent of the vote. As the victor, Mr. Samaras should now be able to form a government together with pro-bailout coalition partners, among them the rival Pasok, a center-left party.

Quite obviously, this is not a vote of confidence in the old guard – just recognition of the lack of responsible alternatives. The electorate has not forgotten that New Democracy and Pasok have spent decades promising everything to everybody and then giving as much to as many people as the cash machine called the European Union would allow them to borrow on a credit card.


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