Athens: Greece called a snap election for next month on Wednesday, opening a campaign that may produce no clear result and threaten implementation of the international bailout plan that saved the nation from bankruptcy.
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said in a televised address to the nation after meeting the president that the parliamentary election would be held on May 6.
"Greece is in the middle of a difficult path," he said. "The choices we make will not only determine which government will be formed after the election but Greece`s course in decades to come."
Papademos, a former central banker called in last year when a socialist government collapsed, noted that his interim administration had fulfilled its mandate of securing the bailout and a landmark debt restructuring last month.
"The last months proved that faced with great problems and huge risks we can cooperate and overcome our differences," he said.
The election will be the first since the debt crisis exploded at the end of 2009, dragging the country into its worst recession since World War Two, pushing unemployment to record highs and shaking the euro.
The conservative New Democracy and the Socialist PASOK parties - which have backed the Papademos government - have lost public support for endorsing the bailout plan which demands harsh austerity, and may not win enough votes to form a new coalition.
Opinion polls show that small parties which oppose the steep wage and pension cuts imposed by the European Union and IMF in return for aid are gaining ground.
Party leaders have already unofficially started the campaign, with conservative leader Antonis Samaras, whose party is ahead in all opinion polls, telling supporters over the weekend that he would raise low pensions and create jobs.
Recent opinion polls show his New Democracy party would win between 18 and 25 percent of the vote, ahead of PASOK`s 11-16 percent but far behind the socialists` sweeping 43.9 percent in the pre-crisis election of October 2009.
Both New Democracy and PASOK back EU/IMF reforms such as opening up of closed professions, slashing the public sector workforce by a fifth and cutting pensions, but Samaras said he would renegotiate some parts of the plan.