ATHENS – The Greeks voted again Sunday after an inconclusive general election in May failed to produce a government. Greece’s conservative New Democracy party is projected to win Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Official estimates show New Democracy winning 29.5 percent of the vote, with the leftist Syriza party receiving 27.1 percent. All of the major parties want the country to stay in the euro – but at stake is whether Greeks make a break with the past or sticks with familiar faces.
The Greeks are getting well practiced at voting. For the second time in six weeks, Sunday morning in Athens involves a journey to the voting booth.
It’s mid morning and we are inside a classroom being used for the vote in Papagou, a well-off suburb near the center of the city. The ministry of defense is nearby. The mindset here tends to be conservative, resistant to change. Many are pensioners.
Two election observers from the Communist party are sitting by the entrance. They admit their views are a hard sell in this neighborhood. Most people say they are voting for the main center-right party, New Democracy, even though it governed Greece in the years before the financial crisis.
Voters who identified themselves as Thannos, Anna and Apostolos, all give the same reason.
“I think it is the best chance to stay in the euro which I think is the only course we have to go on now,” said Thannos.
“They guarantee the existence of Greece within the eurozone, which is the most important thing today,” said Anna.
“With the left, we are going to crash immediately, or within the next couple of months,” said Apostolos.
A couple of kilometers away from some of the wealthier suburbs, in the central district of Archanon, and there’s a different atmosphere. There is higher unemployment, and many voters are concerned about illegal immigration, and its links to violent crime. And they are prepared for a break with the past.
The left wing coalition Syriza, with a strong showing in opinion polls, wants to renegotiate the austerity measures that are part of the bailout. A voter named Labros supports them. “The debt is 160%, the economy is broken, if you see in Athens all the shops, everything is closed, is dead, we need hope,” he said.
A party called Mutiny demands Greece leaves both the euro and the EU so it could wipe out its debts. Dmitris supports them – and felt so strongly he travelled from Holland to vote. “I felt the urge to come and participate in the elections and send a message that this whole situation should not continue, we have to put a stop to it,” he said.
Greeks are angry about the cost of austerity. People from every walk of life have demonstrated against job losses and cuts in salary and pensions.
Anger has spilled over into the TV studio with candidates attacking each other physically, not just verbally.
But Greeks are exhausted. They want a stable outcome from this election. They do not want to see a voting booth again for a while.