Greece to choose between austerity and change in parliamentary polls | News | DW | 25.01.2015
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Greece to choose between austerity and change in parliamentary polls

Greek voters are going to the polls in an election that is being closely watched all over the EU. The vote could result in a party taking power that wants to renegotiate the terms of Greece's international bailout.

Opinion polls, published on Friday, the last day of the election campaign, gave the far left, anti-austerity Syriza party, led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras (pictured above), a clear lead over the governing conservative New Democracy party, led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Nine separate polls gave Syriza a lead of anywhere from 2.8 percent over New Democracy, but they also indicated that around 10 percent of Greece's nearly 10 million eligible voters remained undecided.

There were no official campaign events on Saturday, a "day of reflection" that precedes every Greek election.

Griechenland Wahlen Januar 2015 Nea Dimokratia

Samaras: Not a time for experiments

Clear choice

As voters cast their ballots this Sunday, they will be presented with a clear choice; to place their faith in the painful austerity measures introduced by Samaras' government to comply with the terms of Greece's international bailout and fix the country's finances long-term - or to hitch their wagon to Tsipras' promises to roll back the austerity measures and negotiate more favorable terms.

In his final appeal to the voters on Friday, Samaras urged Greeks to reelect his government, saying it sould be crazy to take a chance on Syriza just when the austerity measures he introduced could be about to pay off.

"Syriza will turn all of Europe against Greece.... They don't understand Europe, they don't believe in Europe," Samaras said at a campaign rally in Athens.

However, with an unemployment rate of 25 percent, it is no secret that this is a tough sell.

Rolling back austerity measures

For his part, Tsipras said he planned to restore Greece's dignity by rolling back public sector layoffs, pay and pension cuts, and getting the country's creditors to write off much of its public debt.

What remains unclear is whether, if elected, he will be able to deliver on these promises. Critics have also warned that trying to renegotiate the terms of Greece's bailout with the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, could lead the "Grexit" scenario, in which the country would wind up leaving the eurozone.

Syriza has said that it wants Greece to remain in the eurozone, and on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen by many Greeks as the driving force behind the tough terms of the bailout, expressed a similar sentiment.

"At the heart of our principles lies solidarity. I want Greece, despite the difficulties, to remain part of our story," Merkel said.

pfd/bk (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)

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