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Europe

Greek Socialists win local elections despite unpopular spending cuts

With almost all of the votes counted, the Socialists have emerged as the clear the winners of Greece's local elections, despite the national government's unpopular austerity measures.

A Greek flag and the Acropolis

The governing Socialists were set to win nine out of 13 regional governor posts

Greece's ruling Socialist Party was the big winner in Sunday's run-off local elections, as participation hit a record low amidst a new round of spending cuts.

The Socialists won mayoral races in the capital Athens as well as in Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, for the first time in over two decades. Voter turnout in Athens was 33 percent, with a national average of 50 percent.

The results were an encouraging sign for Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, after drastic wage and pension cuts and consumer tax increases prompted widespread protest in recent months.

"Today the nation has indicated to us that we should proceed with our course," Papandreou said.

The poll results come ahead of a Monday visit by officials from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to assess Greece's implementation of a bailout worth 110 billion euros ($150 billion).

The EU's statistics agency, Eurostat, said in statement that Greece's 2009 budget deficit reached 15.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), almost two percent higher than projected. Analysts say the increase makes it unlikely that Greece will reach its target of lowering the deficit to 8.1 percent of GDP by the end of the year.

Author: Sarah Harman (Reuters, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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