Greeks go to polls in crucial election

Greeks are going to the polls on Sunday to vote in a crucial parliamentary election expected to decide the country’s future in the euro zone.

Greeks go to polls in crucial election

World Bulletin/News Desk           

Greece is holding the first general election since the debt crisis hit the country in late 2009 and prompted the Greek authorities to implement deeply unpopular austerity measures in exchange for bailout funds from the European Union and the International Monetary Funds to stave off a sovereign default.

Opinion polls suggest that there are no clear winners in the parliamentary election as voters, hit by record unemployment levels and drastic wage cuts, may elect an unprecedented number of small parties to the Greek parliament that are opposed to the harsh austerity measures that the country’s two leading parties, New Democracy and the Socialist PASOK, have undertaken to pursue in exchange for the EU/IMF bailouts.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time and will close at 7 p.m. A total of 9.9 million Greeks eligible to vote will have to choose among 32 political parties included in ballot papers.

Main parties contesting

Greece will hold snap national elections on May 6 with its two traditional ruling parties polling at historic lows.

At stake is whether Athens sticks to the harsh terms of a hugely unpopular 130 billion euro EU/IMF bailout, or heads down a path that could see it ejected from the single currency.

A record 8-10 parties are expected to enter parliament and public outrage with the main parties could turn at least four small groups into potential power-brokers. Below is a look at the parties and their key policy commitments to boost growth:

NEW DEMOCRACY:

- Antonis Samaras, who angered EU peers by voting against the first Greek bailout, took over his party's helm in 2009 and has made clear that, while he accepts the main targets of the austerity programme, he will renegotiate how to reach them.

- The frontrunner to win the election race with up to 25.5 percent of votes, Samaras is running on a campaign of tax cuts and growth-boosting measures.

- Samaras plans to cut government waste to generate the bulk of the 11.7 billion euros in savings for 2013 and 2014 that the new government must outline in June.

- He says a single corporate tax rate should fall to 15 from as high as 23 percent to stimulate consumption and hiring and after five straight years of recession.

- The Conservatives enjoyed wide support in the boom years in the mid-2000s, but Costas Karamanlis' five years in power were beset by scandals leading to the fall of his government.

PASOK

- Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, who played the key role in securing Greece's latest aid package, pledges not to slap new taxes on long-suffering Greeks.

- The former finance minister, who polls show could come second with about 19 percent of the vote, says Athens will complete its obligations by 2015 by spreading savings of 11.7 billion euros over three years instead of two.

- He has promised to focus on structural reforms like opening up closed professions and plans to lower social security contributions by 10 percent to kick-start the economy and boost employment.

- PASOK's founder Andreas Papandreou, who presided over Greek politics for over two decades, is widely blamed for inflating the country's welfare state and generous treatment of public sector workers.

- His son George won a 2009 election on promises to lavish jobs and benefits on the poor and working class but resigned two years later over his handling of an economic crisis which forced him to do the opposite.

INDEPENDENT GREEKS

- Panos Kammenos' right-wing Independent Greeks are riding a wave of discontent over severe wage cuts and have ruled out cooperating with any pro-bailout government.

- Kammenos is scoring as much as 11 percent in polls and says Greece can easily cover any funding gap by getting advance payments on future oil and gas receipts.

- He plans to raise 250 billion euros by selling financial instruments known as Collateral Debt Obligations and dismisses the idea that Greece will exit the euro if it reneges on its bailout agreement.

LEFT COALITION

- Promising to freeze payments to creditors and renegotiate the austerity measures and erase chunks of Greek debt, Alexis Tsipras' party could take 9-13 percent of the vote.

- Greece's youngest political leader, Tsipras is pledging wage and salary increases, more rights for workers and higher taxes for the rich. He also wants to nationalise banks.

DEMOCRATIC LEFT

- Led by mild-mannered lawyer Fotis Kouvelis, the pro-EU party was formed barely two years ago with an anti-bailout message, pledging reforms to tackle tax evasion and corruption.

- Kouvelis wants gradual disengagement from the loan agreement and says Greece needs to boost growth to pull itself out of recession. He wants 60 percent of Greek debt to be transferred to the European Central Bank.

KKE

- Communist KKE has been a fixture in Greek politics for decades despite being outlawed for much of the time until the fall of a military junta in 1974.

- With a hammer and sickle in its logo, the party, which secured 7.5 percent of the vote in 2009, still espouses Marxist-Leninist ideology two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

- Communist leader Aleka Papariga says her aim is not to win power during the elections, but to have a weak government installed that would set the stage for a workers' revolution.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Mayıs 2012, 13:28

Muhammed Öylek

YORUM EKLE