Greek political leaders made their final campaign pleas before elections tomorrow that may determine whether the country becomes the first member of the euro to leave the currency union.
“The first thing we must determine in the elections on June 17 is to choose between the euro or drachma,” New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras told a crowd of flag-waving supporters in central Syntagma square last night. He faced the Parliament building in Athens, the site of protests against austerity measures demanded in return for 240 billion euros ($303 billion) of emergency aid pledges. A vote for the anti- bailout Syriza party “means Greece out of the euro,” he said.
The vote will turn on whether Greeks, in a fifth year of recession, accept open-ended austerity to stay in the euro or reject the bailout conditions and risk the turmoil of exiting the 17-nation currency. World leaders, who gather for a summit in Mexico June 18, have said they’d prefer a pro-euro result, underscoring concern over global repercussions.
Almost 10 million Greeks are eligible to vote for the second time in six weeks after a May 6 ballot failed to yield a government.
Exit polls will be released when voting ends at 7 p.m. in Athens, with a first official result estimate due around 9:30 p.m. The final polls, published on June 1, showed no party set to win a majority.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, who promises to renege on Greece’s end of the bailout deal, and New Democracy ran even in final opinion polls. The socialist Pasok party, which won the 2009 election and led the country into the bailout, was third at about 13 percent.
Euro Tensions Mount as Greek Vote Nears
Central banks from Tokyo to London checked their ammunition on Friday in preparation for any turmoil from Greece’s election, with the European Central Bank hinting at an interest rate cut and Britain set to open its coffers.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized France’s economic performance, effectively taking a swipe at Socialist President Francois Hollande, who has called for more emphasis on economic growth and less on budget austerity.Tensions were high about how to manage the euro zone’s debt crisis — epitomized by Greece’s bankruptcy and need for international aid — and a rare fight broke out between Germany and France, normally the glue that keeps the bloc together.
The feeling of crisis was real. “We must do everything possible to prevent the euro zone from falling apart,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on television.
World awaits Greek election fallout
World leaders and financial markets braced themselves on Friday for the fallout from an inconclusive election result in Greece, with private polls indicating that none of the political parties would win a parliamentary majority in Sunday’s vote.
Deep divisions over the austerity measures required under the terms of Greece’s international bailout left the country’s political parties unable to form a government after last months’ initial election. Despite a new campaign, however, it was uncertain whether this weekend’s election would change anything.
The question of whether a future government can be formed quickly enough to implement the bailout terms and halt the slide towards national economic collapse will hinge not only on Sunday’s result but also talks between political parties expected to begin on Monday.
Antonis Perris was a devoted son. When his elderly mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago, there was no question of putting her in a state facility.
He would care for her at home in Athens and they would face the future together.
But then things started getting very much worse.
‘The problem is that I was not prepared when the economic crisis hit and I do not have enough money in my account,’ wrote the 60-year-old unemployed musician.
‘My credit card is overdrawn, we do not have enough food to feed ourselves. I live a drama with no end. Does anyone have a solution for me? World leaders, you who brought this financial crisis, you all need hanging!’
On the brink: Greeks will go to the polls again on Sunday, and the outcome of their votes will be critical for the country’s future
Perris wrote of his despair in an internet chatroom three weeks ago. Then, one morning, he led his mother on to the roof of their five-storey apartment block. Hand-in-hand, they jumped off.
Not long ago, this episode would have been a national scandal. Today, it is just another tragic footnote to the story of a society on the brink of collapse.
On Monday morning, this modern European nation could be waking up to a nightmare scenario, which runs as follows. The cash machines start drying up. Supermarket shelves are cleared by families fearful that food supplies will run out.
There are queues round the block for the last dribbles from the petrol pumps, and deliveries come to a halt. Within a day or two, protests have turned to looting and random acts of violence against strangers. Overwhelmed, the police retreat to their bases. The most vulnerable citizens lock the doors and pray.
And gradually, the country that gave the world ‘democracy’ descends into another word it also created — ‘anarchy’.