Europe Braces Itself as Greek Voters Head to Polls

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Common Dreams

Europe Braces Itself as Greek Voters Head to Polls

by
Common Dreams staff

A man picks up a ballot in the northern port city of Thessaloniki (The Independent)

Today Greeks go to the polls for an early general election, which may result in turmoil, threatening to reinvigorate the Euro-zone crisis.

Greece's two main parties, the socialist Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the New Democracy conservatives, are expected to suffer in the parliamentary poll as voters have continued to express widespread anger over thier imposed austerity measures and the continued handling of the economic crisis.

Both PASOK and New Democracy want to continue to work with the unpopular "troika" of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, continuing the austerity path. This has assured support for a plethora of anti-austerity politicians from all sides of the political spectrum.

"We need to break from this corrupt political system of lackeys of foreign imperialism," Petros Alachmar, 31, an activist from the far-left Syriza party, told the AFP news agency. "We have had enough of austerity measures."

An anti-austerity Greek parliament could mean turbulence for the 'troika', as Greece is required to impose yet more austerity measures next month if it is to continue the euro bailout and avoid default and an exit from the euro. 

"This whole situation has destroyed our dreams," said Haris Manolis, a worker at a steel factory where employees have been on strike for six months to protest layoffs and wage cuts. "We have no more dreams. We have one: to overturn them so that we can make new ones. That's it."

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Agence France-Presse: Eurozone jitters as Greece votes in election

Greeks vote in an early general election on Sunday that threatens to turn the country's decades-old political system on its head and bring the eurozone crisis back with a vengeance.

After two years of austerity cuts, polls indicate that voters are set to punish Greece's two main parties for having accepted yet more belt-tightening in return for two bailouts worth 240 billion euros ($314.0 billion).

Greece has written off a third of its debts and is in its . One in five workers is unemployed, its banks are in a precarious position and pensions and salaries have been slashed by up to 40 percent.

With Portugal and Ireland also getting aid and Italy and Spain on shaky ground too, last year there were worries of some sort of break-up of the eurozone. These fears have subsided in recent months but have not completely disappeared.

Germany, in particular, Europe's paymaster-in-chief and the leading proponent of austerity -- amid growing calls for more focus on growth -- will likely be watching events in Athens just as much as France's election the same day.

In comments widely quoted by Greek newspapers on the eve of Sunday's vote, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that if Greece's new government deviated from its commitments the country would have to "bear the consequences."

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Al-jazeera: Voting begins in crucial Greek elections

Voting has begun in Greece in the most uncertain and critical parliamentary elections for decades.

The result of the crucial vote could throw the debt-stricken country's future into further doubt and shake the wider eurozone.

After two years of austerity cuts, polls indicate that voters are set to punish Greece's two main parties for having accepted yet more belt-tightening measures in return for two bailouts worth $314bn.

The socialist Panhellenic Socialist Movement or PASOK party and the New Democracy conservatives have alternated in power since the end of a military junta in 1974, but a seismic shift is expected on Sunday, with as many as half of the votes going to around 30 smaller parties.

Al Jazeera's John Psaropolous, reporting from Athens, said: "People are going to the polls to voice their anger at cut pensions, salaries, and increased taxes over the past two years, which have now accumulated and had a collective impact on household finances.

"People are beginning to dip below the poverty lines in greater numbers, more than ever before."

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The Independent: Greece heads to the polls in critical but uncertain election

Greeks cast ballots today in their most critical — and uncertain — election in decades, with voters set to punish the two main parties that are being held responsible for the country's dire economic straits.

The stakes couldn't be higher.

Entirely dependent on billions of euros worth of international rescue loans from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund, Greece must impose yet more austerity measures next month, if it is to keep the money flowing and prevent a default and a potentially disastrous exit from the euro.

Thirty-two parties are vying for the support of nearly 10 million registered voters, many of whom, according to recent polls, were undecided on the eve of the election.

Abstention, once projected to reach historic highs but seen rising in recent opinion surveys, will be crucial to the final outcome. In the last national election, in October 2009, just over 70 percent of the registered voters went to the polls.

Such is the disillusionment with the socialist PASOK party and conservative New Democracy, which have been alternating in power for the last 38 years, that neither is expected to garner enough votes to form a government. Days of wrangling over forming a coalition will likely ensue, with the prospect — alarming to Greece's lenders and much of the country's population — of another round of elections if they fail.

Public anger has been so high that politicians have been forced to maintain low-profile campaigns for fear of physical attacks on the streets in a country battered by business closures and hundreds of thousands of job losses.

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