May 6: Greeks Vote In The Most Crucial Election Since The Return...

May 6: Greeks Vote In The Most Crucial Election Since The Return Of Democracy

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Despite the fact that this election is an early one as the economic crisis forced out the previous elected government led by George Papandreou, it feels as if the last elections were ten years ago instead of two. This is the twenty-fifth election since World War II for Greeks and admittedly the most critical since the return of democracy in 1974. Its outcome is crucial not only to Greece’s economic and social well being, but to the stabilization of the eurozone plagued by the sovereign debt crisis. At stake is the capability – and the political determination – of the new government to apply the brutal austerity program which PASOK and ND agreed to implement in return for a second bailout worth 130billion euros from the Troika.

The first act of the ongoing Greek tragedy ended last November, with the resignation of the Papandreou government. Sunday’s election will mark the end of the second act, the Papadimos government. The third act will begin on May 7, yet with a whole nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown and no one can predict the plot.

For some, May 6 could be the first day of a European spring. It could be an opportunity for the anger, the frustration and the anti-austerity feeling to turn from the negation of “enough” to a radical new governmental proposal, a new type of democracy in the country that gave birth to democracy. It could be the end of Greek elites, the politicians and their cronies that caused Greece’s latest tragedy.

For others it could be the beginning of Greece’s catastrophe. Greece will be kicked out of the euro and will become a state similar to the countries of the ex-communist bloc. It is the second scenario, the politics of fear that has strengthened Nazi friendly Golden Dawn – a bitter irony for the country that had the most successful resistance against Nazi occupation in Europe.

The Cost

Election Day in Greece will cost the already cash stripped Greeks 50 million euros, with the poll price tag cut from 83 million euros in 2009 due to the economic meltdown. The Ministry of Interior Affairs claimed the savings were made, thanks to cuts in election staff: 3,296 ministry and local government staff instead of 7,898 at the last general election, while 9,028 people will make up the remaining poll staff, down from 16,424.

The last election cost Greek taxpayers 83 million euros. On top of that, Greeks paid even more money for the government funds for political parties and money used to promote political campaigns and airtime.

The Timing

The election was not due until October 2013, but the date was brought forward after ex-PM George Papandreou stepped down in November 2011 in the midst of Greece’s debt crisis.

Although New Democracy as well as other parties wanted an election to be held as early as February 2012, the date was set for May 6 to let the caretaker government, led by technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, pass and implement reforms required by the Troika.

The Parties

Thirty two parties will contest for parliamentary seats. The dominant contenders can be categorized into those that reinforced and opposed the bailout. PASOK and New Democracy are the main austerity supporters. Bailout enemies include KKE – the Communist Party of Greece, Syriza, Democratic Left, the newly-established right-wing Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn, a far-right party advocating what many see as a neo-Nazi ideology.

The Numbers

Almost 10 million Greeks (9,850,802) have the right to vote in the elections on May 6, out of a national population of just over 11 million people. The number of newbies, young electors voting for the first time is 359,959 (15,832 more than the elections in 2009) of which 183,709 are men and 176,250 are women.

However, over two million voters (2,208,306) have instead exceeded the age of 70 and these are the voters who are probably going to vote for the two big parties as they don’t seem willing to change their political beliefs despite the fact that their pensions have been butchered. There are 56 constituencies, the largest of which is Athens’ second district with 1,410,493 registered voters.

The polls are to open at 7am local time and are to close at 7pm. According to Singular Logic, the company monitoring the results, the first election forecast should come between two and two and a half hours after the closing of the polls, given of course that everything runs on time.