Angry Greeks Vote in Key Elections
ATHENS, Greece -- Greeks hammered by two years of deep spending cuts voted Sunday in a parliamentary election critical to the country's prospects for pulling itself out of a deep financial crisis that has roiled global markets and threatened Greece's position in the eurozone.
The result is highly uncertain, with angry voters broadly expected to punish the two main parties that have dominated the country's political scene for decades. The last public opinion polls before a two-week ban went into effect showed both the conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK parties hemorrhaging support to a constellation of smaller parties, several formed by rebellious deputies.
The election is unlikely to produce any clear winner, leaving the party with the most votes to seek coalition partners to form a government. Opinion polls ahead of the vote indicated the leading party would be New Democracy, headed by Antonis Samaras -- who has insisted he will not enter into a coalition with his Socialist rivals and warned that a coalition government would require too much haggling to be effective.
The leading party will have three days to form a government, after which the mandate will go to the second party for a further three days, and then to the third party. If none can form a coalition government, the country will head to new elections -- a prospect that worries Greece's international lenders. If, on the other hand, a government is formed, Parliament will convene on May 17.
Greece is heavily dependent on billions of euros worth of international rescue loans from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund, and it must impose yet more austerity measures next month to keep the bailout dollars flowing and prevent a default and a potentially disastrous exit from the group of nations who use the euro currency.
Thirty-two parties are vying for the support of nearly 10 million registered voters, many of whom were undecided on the eve of the election.