five punishing years of austerity and recession, Greeks have begun
casting their votes in a high-stakes election that could set their
battered country on a collision course with the European Union.
opinion polls on Friday showed Syriza, which has pledged to
overturn austerity and renegotiate Greece’s debt mountain, with a
lead of between four and seven percentage points over its main
rival New Democracy, with one poll putting the radical leftist
party 10 points clear.
while it seems clear Alexis Tsipras’s barnstorming alliance of
Maoists, Marxists, Trotskyists, Socialists, Eurocommunists and
Greens will comfortably see off the conservatives of the prime
minister, Antonio Samaras, they are far from certain to win the 151
seats they need to govern alone.
stations opened for Greece’s 9.8 million voters at 7am local time
(5am GMT) and are due to close at 7pm. Initial exit polls,
considered a broadly reliable indication of the likely final
result, are expected soon afterwards, with a more accurate estimate
about two hours later.
many as seven of the 22 parties standing are set to gain the 3% of
the vote needed to enter parliament. But although the winner
collects an additional 50-seat bonus, recent polling has suggested
that may still not quite be enough to give Syriza an absolute
majority in the 300-seat parliament.
fierce anti-austerity, anti-bailout message has found an
enthusiastic audience across a now visibly strung-out and worn-down
country: since 2009, Greece’s GDP has plummeted by a quarter, its
household income by more than a third, and joblessness has trebled,
spending cuts and soaring unemployment have seen around 3.1 million
people, or 33% of the population, lose their social security and
health insurance, leaving the country on the brink of humanitarian
crisis. Some 32% of Greece’s population now lives below the
poverty line, while 18% are unable to afford basic food needs.
has won over darkness. Victory and a majority are within our
grasp,” 40-year-old Tsipras told cheering supporters at his final
campaign rally in Crete on Friday, promising to restore the
“dignity of the Greek people”.
the prospect of a Syriza victory has spooked creditors who worry
Athens will seek a write-off of at least part of its massive €320bn
debt. Some analysts fear a tough Syriza approach to negotiations
could push Greece out of the eurozone, although Germany’s
chancellor, Angela Merkel, insisted on Friday this was not what she
line has softened markedly in recent weeks, but several EU capitals
are still alarmed by promises to cancel the most draconian budget
cuts imposed as part of the country’s €240bn bailout package:
the Syriza manifesto pledges, among other things, to reverse the
worst wage and pension cuts, restore health insurance and
electricity to the needy, and abolish unpopular extra “emergency”
the party does need a coalition partner, its choices are limited.
The extreme-right, anti-immigrant, Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn,
several of whose 18 MPs are in jail awaiting trial for membership
of a criminal organisation, may end up as Greece’s third largest
party, but is not an option for them.
Communist party has refused all cooperation with Syriza. Possible
allies could include the new, centrist Potami (River) party, which
wants root-and-branch reform of Greece’s dysfunctional state, or
the populist Independent Greeks, who agree with Syriza that
austerity has to end, but disagree on almost everything else.
day a little worse':
Greeks frustrated &
desperate ahead of
is facing a crucial choice on Sunday, with the general election
deciding the path the country will follow in years to come. And with
Greece still in the grip of tough austerity policies, many see the
vote as their only hope. RT's Maria Finoshina reports from Athens.