AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
ATHENS: A Greek man in his 40s voting in Athens in Sunday’s election sums up the indignant feelings of many his countrymen for the two political parties that have alternated in power since 1974.
“They have destroyed Greece,” Yannis says after casting his ballot, saying his aim is to see the left-wing Pasok party and its conservative rival New Democracy “kicked out of power.”
Efthimis Karadimas, 43, a doctor, agrees: “We will see if the Greeks have enough sense to choose parties other than the two big ones that have left Greece in such a state.”
Greece’s debt is so enormous that it has been forced to go cap-in-hand to the International Monetary Fund and the rest of EU for two bailouts worth 240 billion euros.
Fellow eurozone members Ireland and Portugal have also needed aid, and there are persistent fears Spain and maybe even Italy might need help too, but Greece still remains the single currency area’s biggest problem.
In return for saving it from bankruptcy Greece has had to implement austerity cuts that have inflicted pain across the country, with public services pared to the bone and salaries and pensions slashed by up to 40 percent.
And it is by no means out of the woods. In June the government, whoever that might be after Sunday’s election, has to somehow find another 11.5 billion euros in savings over the next two years.
Meanwhile the economy is set to contract sharply in 2012, for the fifth year running, and one in five workers is unemployed. People have simply had enough.
Much of their anger is aimed not only at the IMF and the EU’s main cracker-of-the-whip Germany, but against the two parties that they have trusted to run the country for the past four decades, who they blame have ruined everything.
Claiming to offer Greeks a way out is a field of 30 other political parties, many of them not currently represented in parliament at all, ranging right across the political spectrum.
They include the KKE Communists, the Syriza leftists and the nationalist Independent Greeks — all expected to make major gains — and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.
Many of these parties want to tear up Greece’s agreements with its international creditors, something that would cause considerable unease across the eurozone, not least in Germany, the bloc’s main paymaster.