Former prime minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday brushed off election polls suggesting his leftist Syriza party might lose to its conservative rival in Greece’s election, saying he had a large group of supporters not reflected by pollsters. He was speaking on the last day of formal campaigning for Sunday’s general election with polls showing a cliffhanger vote expected and some pointing to a win by the conservative New Democracy party. Neither party, however, is expected to get the proportion of the vote needed – roughly 38 percent – to gain a majority in the 300-seat parliament, meaning a coalition is a near certainty. “There is a voting body that is below the radar, it is not being traced,” Tsipras, who was to stage a final rally later in the day, told Greece’s ANT 1 television.
Vassiliki Thanou, Greece’s top supreme court judge, was sworn in Thursday as a caretaker head of the government, becoming the country’s first female prime minister. Yesterday, the country’s far-left leader also formally gave up a bid to form a coalition government, thereby allowing the President to finally set a date for early elections, after a week of political wrangling. Greece’s prime minister on Wednesday raised the political stakes forward of subsequent month’s early nationwide election, saying he won’t enter a coalition with the primary center-right and centrist opposition events even when he wants their backing to control. She will hold the position until a new government emerges from the vote expected on September 20.
Greece’s elections on Sunday are poised to give one of a handful of smaller parties a central role in the direction of the country—and possibly the entire eurozone. The opposition leftist Syriza party and the ruling conservatives, New Democracy, are battling for a first-place finish. But neither is likely to get a majority and will need to turn to another party to help govern, putting whoever comes in third in a position to become a kingmaker. The contenders range from the far-right Golden Dawn, shunned by Greece’s mainstream parties, to Pasok—part of the ruling coalition, but a shadow of the party that dominated Greek politics for most of the past four decades.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Greeks head to the polls on Sunday for the second time in two months with a pervasive sense of dread that any government that comes to power will fail to resolve the political and economic turmoil that threatens the country’s future — and the financial stability of Europe itself. If the establishment center-right party New Democracy ekes out a victory in a race that polls show as tight, Greece still faces weeks or months of negotiations with European lenders over the terms of its austerity program, which all parties agree are too onerous to enforce on its rapidly shrinking economy. A victory by the leftist party Syriza promises a more serious confrontation, especially with Germany, over how — and perhaps whether — to keep Greece in the euro zone.
With polls due to open in less than 24 hours, leftwing Syriza and the conservative New Democracy party are level-pegging in the race to win the election in Greece. The vote is being seen as a crucial indicator for the country’s future within the eurozone. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is the most likely candidate for the next prime minister of Greece. Although his party does not want to abandon the single-currency, it does reject the harsh austerity that comes with accepting the 130 billion euro bailout the country desperately needs.
Nervous Greeks are withdrawing up to 800 million euros ($1.01 billion) a day and stocking up on canned food as they fear the country will be forced to leave the eurozone after this Sunday’s election. Greek citizens fear the ramifications of a return to the country’s previous currency, the drachma, if the radical left-wing party and strong election contender SYRIZA wins this weekend. Bankers said daily withdrawals from the major banks were hitting €500-€800 million ($631.8 million-$1.01 billion), Reuters reported. Meanwhile, retailers say consumers are stocking up on non-perishable foods like pasta and canned goods.
The final day of polling before the repeat election in Greece on June 17 showed the two main contenders neck and neck. The economic crisis has divided Greeks, who appear split on the causes and solutions to the country’s financial meltdown. The political stalemate only appears to be entrenching these divisions. Industrial disputes do not get much worse than this. The workers at the Hellenic Halyvourgia steel plant have been on strike for more than 200 days. Yorgos Sifonios is president of the workers’ union. He showed letters of solidarity from unions across the world. “The Union has undertaken collective action, which has roused the whole of Greece’s working class. Our strike has become a landmark, a model of how all workers must fight,” Sifonios said. The factory’s owner laid off 50 workers last year, blaming falling demand. The company declined an interview.
The Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”, might have been coined with the Greek people in mind. Not since the fall of the military junta in 1974 has there been such turmoil and uncertainty. It’s not physical turmoil (although there have been mild fisticuffs in my local bar) but conceptual, as voters prepare for the next elections on June 17th, following the totally inconclusive ballot last month. There is a series of dichotomies (after all, the Greeks invented the word). On one hand, in the bigger picture, is the right of the Greeks to self-determination; on the other are Greece’s international obligations, as members of the EU and debtors to the IMF. On one hand, many politicians and technocrats are saying Greece must be changed completely, while on the other Greek people want to go on being Greek. The greatest dilemma is the fact that Syriza (Radical Left) may well top the polls, having pushed Pasok into third place last month. Current predictions have Syriza at 27-30 per cent, with New Democracy (ND) on 23-27 per cent and Pasok limping badly on 12-15 per cent. Topping the poll on 30 per cent would give Syriza 90 seats, plus a bonus of 50 – a total of 140, just 11 seats short of an overall majority. Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, the new kid on the block, wants to repudiate Greece’s debts, reverse the austerity measures and nationalise the banks, yet – and here’s another dichotomy – he wants to stay in the euro, which might be fiscally impossible.
The Greek president on Sunday held last-ditch talks with party leaders in a bid to form an emergency cabinet and avoid new polls that could endanger reforms and push the country out of the eurozone. Carolos Papoulias met for 90 minutes with the heads of the three parties that topped last Sunday’s inconclusive election – conservative New Democracy, Socialist Pasok, and radical leftist Syriza. He was to meet with leaders of smaller parties later in the day.
Greece opened its first purpose-built detention centre for illegal migrants on Sunday in Athens, a week before a national election where illegal immigration has emerged as a key issue. About 130,000 immigrants cross the country’s porous sea and land borders every year, the vast majority via Turkey, and the authorities are forced to release those who are arrested because of a lack of permanent housing. With Greece in its fifth year of recession and worries over rising crime levels, illegal immigration has become a major issue in the run up of the May 6 election. The once-obscure far-right Golden Dawn, which wants to deport all immigrants, is among the parties that has benefitted most from the mood among voters, and is expected to win its first seats in parliament.
Greece is entering the home stretch of its first election campaign since becoming a global financial pariah and the polls show no party gaining a mandate to enforce the austerity policies needed to stay in the euro. The final surveys, published on April 20, showed as many as 10 parties with a chance of winning seats in the May 6 vote. The two biggest, traditional rivals New Democracy and socialist Pasok, may be forced into a coalition. The country needs a functioning government to ensure that it continues to receive rescue funds to keep its economy afloat.
With Greek elections looming, the country’s mainstream political forces are melting down and splintering into smaller, more radical factions, all of which are vowing to deliver Greece from its EU bailout terms. In his campaign kickoff speech on April 19, Greek socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos described the state of Greek politics as “rudderless”. “This political dead end will multiply and deepen the economic and social crisis,” he said. Venizelos was holding up the specter of ungovernability, which currently haunts Greek politics, to deter voters from punitive action at the ballot box. More than four in ten voters say they are going to the polls to punish socialists and conservatives for their mismanagement of the economy in previous years, rather than to elect the best possible government.