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07.07.2019 Europe

Greece votes in election expected to oust Tsipras

By RFI
REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
JUL 7, 2019 EUROPE

Greeks are at the polls today in the first general elections since the country emerged from international bailouts, with many predicting a conservative return to power ending four years of leftist rule primarily blamed for Greece's crippling debt.

Opinion polls have put the New Democracy party, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis ahead of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's Syriza party by 10 percentage points.

Such a lead would give it a majority in Greece's 300 seat parliament.

The snap election was called by Tspiras after he suffered a defeat in the European elections back in May.

The polls are gearing to be more of a litmus test of Tsipras' government as many blame him for caving to pressure for imposing austerity measures.

Back in 2015, Tsipras stormed into power vowing to tear up the austerity rule book that already been hurting Greece since 2008 during a financial bailout.

Greeks had supported him primarily based on his platform of ending austerity measures.

But he emerged after 17 hours of negotiations with creditors, willing to accept another bailout.

Between 2008 and 2016, the Greek economy shrunk by 28 percent bringing along with an increase in unemployment that has seen many Greeks fall into a state of poverty.

The elections are largely looking to be a showdown between Syriza and New Democracy.

New Democracy
The party that is expected to come out a winner in these elections is led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

He has promised lower taxes, greater privatization of public services and plans to renegotiate a deal with Greece's creditors that would ideally see more money be reinvested into the country.

“The first thing that is necessary for economic growth to be boosted is a stable government, a strong majority in the next parliament,” Mitsotakis said in an interview to Reuters.

But Tspiras warned that a vote for Mitsotakis is one for the very political establishment that pushed Greece to the edge of despair in the first place.

“Each and every one of you must now consider if, after so many sacrifices, we should return to the days of despair,” the Prime Minster stressed to voters just before ending the pre-election campaign on Friday.

Unemployment and a fragile economy
Those hit worse by the austerity measures have been the youth, those under 25, who have dealt with increasing unemployment rates.

Although the bailout came to an end last year, many young Greeks were already in the thick of the problems generated by the measures.

In response, there has been a major exodus of youth leaving the country in search of employment opportunities.

Coupled to unemployment has been the exterior factor of migrants.

The surge of asylum seekers and migrants seeking entry into the European Union via Greece's islands has also weakened the economy.

Despite an agreement in 2015 between the EU and Turkey to stem the flow of migrants, some 36,000 arrived in 2017, and 50,000 last year. Their arrival has had an impact on tourism since many tourists are less inclined to spend time on islands that are struggling to house the migrants.

Voting ends at 7pm on Sunday, with the first official projections are expected two hours later.

(with Wires)

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