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Austerity-hit Greeks to head to polls amid uncertainty

05-06-2012 12:00 BJT

ATHENS, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Austerity-hit Greeks will head to polls on Sunday in one of the most critical general elections in decades in the debt-laden country amid wide uncertainty over the outcome.

The elections could open the way for a strong pro-reform government that will avert a disorderly default and keep Greece within eurozone, or add political instability to economic plight, as analysts have suggested and voters told Xinhua in Athens on Saturday.

On top of the concern is whether Greece will remain committed to the painful austerity and reform program launched two years ago in exchange of vital bailout packages by its European counterparts and the International Monetary Fund.

A dramatic shift in policy could lead to bankruptcy after all and a possible expulsion of the country from the European common currency zone with major repercussions beyond Greek borders, according to analysts.

The latest opinion polls suggest that the conservative New Democracy party and the socialist PASOK party that have governed the country for the past three decades and back the plan, will suffer record low percentages.

According to pollsters, they will still rank first and second, but will not gain a clear parliamentary majority and most probably will try to strike a coalition partnership starting from Monday, after their power-sharing cooperation experiment in the outgoing coalition administration of Lucas Papademos.

Frustrated over the waves of salary cuts, tax hikes, record high unemployment rates and deep recession, many Greeks seem to have turned to anti-bailout parties.

Local political analysts point out that a fragmented new parliament of some ten parties, in their majority anti-austerity parties, could influence policies in the coming months and years against a weak government.

If, of course, Greece will manage to avoid the prospect of a second round of elections within weeks in the case of failure to form any coalition administration, as some fear.

"I don't forecast any big changes, but what all people fear is lack of governance. On the economic part, I don't expect any changes to the better, only to the worse," pensioner Yorgos Zontos told Xinhua, while taking a walk with his grandchildren at a northern Athens district square.

A few hours before polling stations open, he had not decided which party he would vote for, expressing doubt whether any party can dramatically change the economic situation.

A few steps further Aphrodite Panagopoulou, a young civil servant and mother of two children was convinced that policies can change to the better and that the ongoing program be scrapped or significantly altered to focus on boosting growth rather than austerity.

Rejecting "doomsday scenarios" of a Greek chaotic default, she appeared angry at Greek political leaders and European leaders as well over the handling of the debt crisis.

She suspected that the international financial system will not further support Greece regardless of Sunday's results and risks a bankruptcy that would cost much to many.

"I would say let's end up in default, but rather than having a Greek bankruptcy, let's see all major economies collapsing as well," she said.

Greek Communist party member Triantafyllos Balomenos who was handing out leaflets to passer-bys at a kiosk at the square's edge, agreed that many Greek employees, pensioners and businessmen have not much to lose.

Greeks already experience a kind of default with the reduction of incomes by some 30 percent on average in two years amidst heavy recession, he argued.

He added that in spite of the polls' outcome, the struggle to overcome the crisis will continue." The elections are a battle, but the most important issue is to continue an organized struggle of workers for their rights after this significant electoral battle," he stressed.


Editor:Bai Yang |Source: Xinhua

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