Europe’s Left-wing anti-austerity parties have claimed another victory after a surpise triumph in Spain’s local elections. The defeat of the two main parties that have dominated Spanish politics for more than 40 years means that a series of new Left-wing movements now hold the balance of power, inviting an unwelcome comparison with Greece. Across the country, even historical strongholds for the ruling Popular Party (PP) and the opposition socialist PSOE were rocked by the upsurge in support for recently formed groups, which can now hold the traditional parties to ransom as they try to form a ruling coalition. In all of Spain’s major cities, including Madrid and Barcelona, coalitions will be required.
Greece on Sunday appeared to reject the punishing economics of austerity and send a warning signal to the rest of Europe as exit polls showed the left-wing Syriza party with a strong lead in national elections, leaving the party’s tough-talking leader, Alexis Tsipras, likely to become the next prime minister. Exit polls, released on national television after voting stations closed at 7 p.m., showed Syriza running well ahead of the governing center-right New Democracy Party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and in a good position to win a plurality in the multiparty race. It remained unclear whether Syriza would be able to win an outright parliamentary majority, or if it would have to form a coalition with one or more of the trailing parties. Syriza’s likely victory would represent a dramatic milestone for Europe at a time when continuing economic weakness has stirred an angry, populist backlash from France to Spain to Italy, as more voters grow fed up with policies that demand sacrifice to address the discipline of financial markets without delivering more jobs and prosperity. Syriza would become the first anti-austerity party to take power in a eurozone country, and would shatter the two-party political establishment that has dominated Greece for four decades.
Greece’s political parties embarked on a flash campaign for elections in less than three weeks that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said will determine the fate of the country’s membership in the euro currency area. Samaras used a Jan. 2 speech to warn that victory for the main opposition Syriza party would cause default and Greece’s exit from the 19-member euro region, while Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said his party would end German-led austerity. Der Spiegel magazine reported Chancellor Angela Merkel is ready to accept a Greek exit, a development Berlin sees as inevitable and manageable if Syriza wins, as polls suggest. The high-stakes run-up to the Jan. 25 vote returns Greece to the center of European policy makers’ attention as they strive to fend off a return of the debt crisis that wracked the region from late 2009, forcing international financial support for five EU countries.
Greece formally dissolved parliament on Wednesday ahead of a general election on Jan. 25 that has cast its international bailout into doubt and set financial markets on edge just as the euro zone grapples with renewed signs of weakness. The traditional decree calling new elections was posted on the door to parliament two days after lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ candidate for president, automatically triggering a return to the polls. The Jan. 25 vote will mark a showdown between Samaras’ conservative New Democracy party, which imposed unpopular budget cuts under Greece’s bailout deal, and the leftwing Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras, who wants to cancel austerity measures along with a chunk of Greek debt.
Governments and investors across Europe braced for renewed economic upheaval on Monday after the Parliament in Greece failed to avert an early general election, reviving the toxic debate over austerity as the way to cure the Continent’s economic woes. Senior European Union officials immediately urged Greek voters — now headed to the polls on Jan. 25 — to focus on continuing the policies that have enabled the country to ride out its previous monetary crisis and remain part of the eurozone, and that have begun to restore the country’s battered reputation for fiscal management. But with household incomes down by a third from what they were before the policies were adopted, and unemployment higher than 25 percent, polls have indicated support for Syriza, a leftist party that opposes the deep budget cuts Greece has made in recent years as a condition of financial bailouts.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces a vote in parliament on Monday that will decide whether the country goes to snap elections that could bring the leftwing Syriza party to power and derail an international bailout. In the most hotly contested vote for president since Greece joined the euro more than a decade ago, the result in the final round of voting is likely to be decided by a small handful of deputies. If lawmakers fail to elect a successor to 85-year-old Karolos Papoulias, a snap election will be held within weeks. Syriza, leading in the opinion polls, vowed again to renegotiate the joint European Union-IMF bailout bailout Greece needs to pay its bills and roll over its debt.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ surprise offer to lawmakers to go to the polls late next year in exchange for a vote for his presidential nominee has injected fresh momentum into his fight against the anti-austerity left. However, as parliament prepares for a second round of voting on Tuesday to elect a successor to 85 year-old President Karolos Papoulias, the outcome still appears open with only a handful of independents pledging firm support to the government. If a new president is not elected by a third round on Dec. 29, elections will have to be held by early February, potentially handing power to Syriza, the main leftwing opposition party, which wants to renegotiate the international bailout agreement that Greece still needs to keep its battered finances afloat. Such an outcome could rock the euro zone, which is only just emerging from its debt crisis.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras ’s candidate for the presidency failed to win enough support in the first round of parliamentary voting on Wednesday, a move that could force the country into snap elections. Lawmakers couldn’t gather the two-thirds needed to elect former European Commissioner Stavros Dimas as the next president, with 160 members of the chamber backing the candidate, short of the needed 200. A present—or neutral—vote was cast by 135 lawmakers, while five lawmakers were absent. Although few officials in Mr. Samaras’s New Democracy party said they expected Mr. Dimas to be elected on Wednesday, his support came in at the bottom end of expectations. Informal estimates by government officials and analysts had suggested the government would garner between 160 and 165 votes.
Greece has brought forward to this month the date of its next presidential election, which is conducted by the country’s parliament. The announcement came after eurozone ministers approved a Greek request for a two-month extension to its bailout programme, due to end later this month. The presidential vote on 17 December will be a vital test for embattled Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. His decision prompted the stock market in Athens to plummet 9.5% on Tuesday. Analysts said the markets had been spooked by the risk of snap elections, which will take place if the conservative-led government’s nomination is not approved by parliament.
With only four days to go before Greece’s MPs begin voting for the country’s new president, it’s still far from clear how the coalition under prime minister Antonis Samaras will secure the necessary support to have its candidate elected. This it must do to prevent snap elections that would almost certainly see it lose power to a government led by the anti-memorandum Syriza party. Already a clear 25 votes short of the minimum required to elect a president, Mr Samaras earlier this week decided to take a gamble by making a surprise announcement that he was bringing the election for a new head of state forward by two months.
Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange suffered more heavy losses Thursday, as the governing coalition appeared short of the support needed to stop the government collapsing in a parliamentary vote this month. Retreating for a third day, shares closed down nearly 7.5 percent, taking this week’s cumulative losses to around 20 percent. Meanwhile the yield on Greece’s 10-year-bond jumped to nearly 9 percent, way above levels thought as sustainable. Even though Greece has recently emerged from its brutal six-year recession and has made big strides to get its public finances into shape, the country has been thrown back into uncertainty following the decision earlier this week by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to call an early vote in parliament to elect a new president. To get his preferred candidate — Stavros Dimas, a former commissioner at the European Union — elected, Samaras will require support from opposition lawmakers in the 300-member parliament.
With about a quarter of the ballots counted, the Syriza candidates for Athens and the province of Attica—where roughly 40% of the Greek population lives—staged a come-from-behind surge to secure a runoff against incumbents Mayor Giorgos Kaminis and regional prefect Ioannis Sgouros. In Athens, Mr. Kaminis was running roughly one percentage point ahead of challenger Gavriil Sakellaridis, while Rena Dourou, the Syriza candidate for provincial chief, was more than a percentage point ahead of Mr. Sgouros. Until a few days ago, both incumbents—who are identified with Greece’s socialist Pasok party—appeared to enjoy solid leads in their respective constituencies. This will be the first time New Democracy won’t even have a candidate in the second round in the Greek capital since 1975. “The first decisive step was taken today,” said Mr. Sakellaridis, promising an upset next week.
After months of wrangling over the economic woes of the country, the government and opposition yesterday joined forces to reject Turkish reports of a UN proposal to hold a four-party conference on the Cyprus problem. The realignment of stars was brief however as the various factions within the Cypriot political system soon turned on each other to blame their opponents for giving Turkey the chance to push for a four-party conference through their alleged playmaker, UN special adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer.
Has the euro zone found some breathing room in its crisis? The conservative New Democracy (ND) party eked out a victory in Greece’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, edging out the leftist Syriza party, which is strongly opposed to the austerity measures imposed as part of the country’s bailout. The margin was less than 3 points. The victory, however, still leaves Greece without a government. ND failed to win an outright parliamentary majority and must join forces with at least one party to govern. The scenario is similar to the results of an earlier round of voting. ND also came in first in May 6 elections, again with Syriza running a close second, but failed to form a government then. Forming a government quickly is crucial because Greece could run out of cash to pay its bills as early as next month. It’s unclear which party might join ND in coalition. Greek media are speculating that the conservatives might join force with their traditional rival, the Socialist PASOK party, which came in a distant third on Sunday. Whether the results fully reflect the popular will is another question: nearly 38% of eligible voters abstained from voting — a much higher percentage than any party received.
European leaders working to avert a meltdown of the single currency gained some respite when Greek voters handed a narrow victory to mainstream conservatives and the chance to forge a pro-euro and pro-bailout coalition. In the single most closely watched election in years, which amounted to a referendum on whether Greece would become the first country to be forced out of the single currency, the anti-austerity radical Alexis Tsipras was also given a boost, increasing his share of the vote to more than 27%. On a momentous night in European politics, Greece’s conservative New Democracy, under Antonis Samaras, appeared to have pulled the country back from the brink of what many feared would be a national catastrophe and averted a much deeper immediate crisis in Europe.