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Greeks relieved by vote, doubt new coalition will last
* Outcome shows Greeks want to change the bailout within the euro
* Few voters saw real change possible
* Public mood may tolerate new government for limited time
By Greg Roumeliotis and Karolina Tagaris
ATHENS, June 18 (Reuters) - Austerity-weary Greeks expressed relief on Monday that their votes have shown the outside world they want to stay in the euro, but many doubted the next government could solve their country's huge problems - or even last more than a few months.
In the cafes and squares of Athens, people hoped for a brief respite from the chaos after the narrow victory in Sunday's election of conservatives, who want to secure Greece's future in the euro by largely implementing a bailout deal under which the EU and IMF have demanded punishing austerity policies.
"I'm pleased because the Europeans will see that we want to stay in the euro," said 70-year-old pensioner Leon Antonakis. "The problem is, what happens now? Who will be able to live up to their demands?"
The second election in less than two months divided Greeks between those largely willing to accept the austerity measures to avoid the risk of Greece leaving the euro zone, and those ready to risk all by voting for the radical leftist SYRIZA party that wants to tear up the bailout deal.
Greece's new government will probably be a coalition which accepts the 130 billion euro bailout, while seeking to negotiate easier terms with the international lenders. However, it will face a strong anti-bailout opposition.
"I'm satisfied with the result. Things will calm down now," said Stratos Afentis, a 40-year-old waiter outside a restaurant in downtown Athens. "But I think the new government will not last after Christmas. There will be pressure in parliament from SYRIZA as well as unrest in society."
In a race that went down to the wire, the conservative New Democracy party finished just ahead of SYRIZA and has begun talks on a new government. It is expected to form a coalition with the Socialist PASOK party, meaning that Greece would continue to be governed by the two parties that have ruled for decades and led the country to economic disaster.
Analysts said voters had signalled to the European Union and International Monetary Fund that renegotiating the bailout should not be at the risk of leaving the euro zone.
"Greeks feel content they split their vote to send the message that they do not want to be thrown out of the euro but that they are in deep pain and that terms of the bailout have to change," said Dimitris Mavros from the MRB polling group.
Athens has witnessed a series of sometimes violent anti-austerity protests in recent years. However, there were few signs of public anger on Monday as people went about their daily business or basked outdoors in the summer sunshine.
Voters appeared to have largely vented their frustration with the political establishment in the first election last month which produced a stalemate, although the anti-establishment SYRIZA performed strongly in Sunday's re-run.
"The punishment (of the political system) was completed in the last election. To a great extent their anger was diffused in the May 6 election," said political analyst George Sefertzis.
Disaffection with a political class seen as corrupt and ineffective also contributed to a sense of numbness among voters, analysts said. Although much was at stake in Sunday's election, few believed their fortunes could really be improved with their vote.
"Anyone who thinks the elections will change anything is only deluding themselves," said Roubini Liakopoulou, a 21-year-old physics student, as she sipped a glass of thick iced coffee in a busy Athens cafe. "Do they think our lives will magically change? I still won't be able to find a job when I graduate."
With a coalition government led by New Democracy all but certain to be formed, people debated how long a new government will last and what impact it may have on their daily life.
"I think the new government will last six months maximum. Things will deteriorate because they will not change the bailout deal," said 21-year-old Iliana Sofianou as she took a break outside a coffee shop in central Athens where she works.
Greece relies on the rescue programme to stay afloat, which comes at the price of deep spending cuts and severe tax hikes that have deepened a long recession.
Many fear that strong opposition by SYRIZA and other anti-bailout parties as well as social unrest fuelled by continuous austerity could topple a new coalition government before long, though analysts argue that much will depend on whether new policies are implemented to offer Greeks some sense of relief.
"To buy time with people, the new government will have to score quick wins. These do not have to be based on renegotiating the bailout, they could be small things such as making taxation fairer or addressing other public issues of concern such as immigration," said MRB's Mavros.
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