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Greek voters voice no regrets despite political chaos (+video)

Fed up with austerity, Greeks overwhelmingly voted against the mainstream parties that approved the bailout. They say they will do it again if another election has to be held.

By Renee Maltezou & Ingrid MelanderReuters / May 10, 2012

Leader of the Socialists PASOK party Evangelos Venizelos, left, meets President Karolos Papoulias before the President hands him a mandate to form a coalition government in Athens May 10. Greek power-sharing talks enter a third and final round Thursday, as parties in the crisis-hit country struggled to hammer out a coalition deal after general elections produced no outright winner.

Yorgos Karahalis/AP

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Athens

Greeks who plunged their country into turmoil by voting overwhelmingly on Sunday to reject parties behind an EU/IMF bailout say they are ready to do it all over again if, as seems all but certain, the election is rerun next month.

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The two parties that dominated Greece for decades and negotiated its 130 billion euro bailout were reduced to just 32 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, with the rest of Greeks picking fringe parties that all oppose the bailout.

Politicians show virtually no sign of being able to cobble together a government, which means a new election is likely to be held in 3-4 weeks.

The political disarray has fueled speculation Greece could be ejected from Europe's single currency, even though polls show most Greeks want to keep the euro.

"I have no regrets. I feel vindicated because the two pro-bailout parties have been unfair with us for so many years," said 70-year-old Petros Chiotopoulos, who owns a small bus rental company and cast his ballot for the conservative splinter party Independent Greeks.

The comments were echoed by dozens of Greeks on the streets of Athens, who said they were unrepentant about punishing a ruling establishment that presided over five years of recession, surging unemployment, falling wages, and rampant corruption.

They said they want to make sure their message is heard at home and in Europe: they want to stay in the euro but can't take any more pain.

The conservative New Democracy and Socialist PASOK have alternated ruling Greece since the fall of the military junta in 1974. Last year, with bankruptcy just weeks away, they formed a coalition and jointly negotiated the 130 billion EU/IMF bailout.

EU leaders have made clear since Sunday that Greece must stick to the reforms agreed in return for the bailout – including firing public sector workers, slashing pay, and raising taxes – to keep getting aid and stay in the euro.

Greeks say they want a rescue plan that would not hurt the poorest and middle class as much.

"We want to stay in the euro. We want to be on an equal footing with other people and not just slaves of some countries," said public sector worker Dimitris Nasis, 62, who voted for a small leftist party.

Nasis pinned his hopes on Francois Hollande, who won the French presidential election on Sunday on a pro-growth ticketand a promise to renegotiate an EU fiscal pact.

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