Greece is the word as world holds its breath
Nations fear poll outcome could send global economy into a tailspin
The eyes of the world were on Greece last night as the country’s voters went to the polls in a critical election which could spell the death of the eurozone - and pitch economies around the globe into another recession.
Greece voted yesterday amid global fears that victory by parties that have vowed to cancel the country’s international bailout agreements and accompanying austerity measures could undermine the European Union’s joint currency and send major economies into a sharp downturn.
For Greeks, it is the second national election in six weeks and arguably the most critical in decades, reflecting political turmoil sparked by a two-year financial crisis that some fear could force the country to abandon the euro and return to its old currency, the drachma.
That in turn would likely drag down other financially troubled countries and threaten the euro itself.
The last opinion polls showed the radical left Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras running neck-and-neck with the conservative New Democracy party of Antonis Samaras.
Tsipras, a 37-year-old former student activist, has vowed to rip up Greece’s bailout agreements and repeal austerity measures which have included deep cuts to healthcare and education, as well as tax hikes and reductions to salaries and pensions.
But his pledges, which include cancelling planned privatisations, nationalising banks and rolling back cuts to minimum wages and pensions, have horrified European leaders, as well as many Greeks. Tsipras’ opponents argue that the inexperienced young politician is out of his depth and will force the country out of the euro.
Virtually unknown outside of Greece four months ago, Tsipras’ pledges and his party’s strong showing in the May 6 elections, where he came a surprise second, have put him in the spotlight.
Scores of journalists and television news crews from across the world jostled for space to cover him casting his ballot in an Athens polling centre.
Greece has been dependent on the rescue loans since May 2010. Spending cuts made in return have left the country mired in a fifth year of recession, with unemployment spiraling to above 22 per cent and tens of thousands of businesses shutting down.