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Splintered Vote Throws Greek Politics Further Into Confusion

The prospects of political deadlock and possible new elections were rising after the traditionally dominant parties, New Democracy and the Socialists, which both backed Greece’s latest loan agreement with its foreign creditors, did not get enough of the combined vote to form a majority in Parliament. Several smaller parties, whose fortunes rose on a rich harvest of protest votes, refused to join in a coalition with the larger parties.

The lack of a government could cast Greece’s loan agreement with its foreign creditors into turmoil, with a $4.3 billion refinancing looming this month and a requirement from its lenders to cut $15 billion from the budget in June.

On Monday, the New Democracy leader, Antonis Samaras met, with a range of political leaders, including the biggest winner of Sunday’s elections, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, which eclipsed the Socialists for the first time ever to place second with 16.78 percent of the vote, compared to the Socialists’ 13.1 percent.

Following the meeting, Mr. Tsipras said he would not join with New Democracy (which received only 18.8 percent of the vote) but would seek to form a coalition “chiefly of forces of the left” that like his party, oppose the bailout terms. That may prove difficult since the Communist Party, which received 8.48 percent of the vote, has said it will refuse to join any coalition.

Mr. Tsipras said that Sunday’s results showed that the signatures on the loan agreement had been discredited, and that they were “not a salvation but a tragedy.”

After his meeting with Mr. Samaras, the Socialist leader, Evangelos Venizelos, whose party suffered its worst defeat since its founding and placed third, called for a government of national unity whose “minimum goal” would be to keep Greece in the euro zone.

Mr. Venizelos, who was finance minister when Greece negotiated its second loan agreement in February, called for a four-party coalition to be led by a prime minister accepted by all sides, and who would renegotiate the terms of the loan agreement.

Mr. Venizelos suggested that the coalition should be composed of New Democracy, the Socialists, Syriza and the Democratic Left, which was founded in 2010 by Fotis Kouvelis, a former Syriza member, as a more centrist offshoot. After his meeting with Mr. Samaras on Monday, however, Mr. Kouvelis ruled out joining a coalition with New Democracy and the Socialists, noting that his party had not changed its pre-election goals of ensuring that Greece remains in the euro zone, though under a new debt deal with its creditors.

But Mr. Kouvelis still could be the kingmaker, leaving the door open to a possible coalition with Mr. Tsipras of Syriza. “We will wait to hear a precise and clear proposal, then we will comment,” he said.

Sunday’s elections also saw the far right, ultranationalist Golden Dawn party, whose members perform Nazi salutes at rallies and who routinely scuffle with illegal immigrants in downtown Athens, receive 7 percent of the vote, enough to enter Parliament for the first time, with 21 seats.

If Mr. Tsipras fails to form a coalition, Mr. Venizelos has a try, and if he fails the president of the republic summons the leaders of all parties in Parliament and tries to broker a broad coalition. If that also fails, the president appoints an interim government to bring the country to new elections in 30 days.

Reporting contributed by Niki Kitsantonis.