Greece’s Elections

June 15, 2012

On Sunday, fathers will be sharing their big day with the anxiously awaited Greek elections. Why should you be tuning in?

Background
Parliamentary elections on May 6th were inconclusive due to a stalemate between Greek voters over support for austerity measures. President Papoulias attempted to gain support of political party leaders to form a coalition government, in which political parties would cooperate to achieve a majority. The measure failed because of disagreement over the bailout. Greece has accepted 240 billion euros in aid from the IMF and the EU over the past two years with an agreement to cut spending. Greeks are torn over the future of their country going into the new election on June 17th.

In order to form a government, parties must secure at least 3% of the vote to enter parliament with the winning party gaining an additional 50-seats automatically. If no party wins an outright majority, President Papoulias will repeat attempts to form a coalition government with the party leaders. If however these talks fail to form a government, Greeks will have to call new elections once more.

Sunday’s Election
The outcome of the election is highly uncertain with voters deciding among eight parties with varying views on Greece’s future. The New Democracy party led by Antonis Samaras supports the bailout with promises to renegotiate agreed upon austerity measures with the EU and IMF and lower taxes. The party may be able to form a coalition with the support of the pro-bailout Pasok party (majority party during first bailout).

In contrast, the Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras leads the anti-bailout movement. Tsipras vows to scrap austerity measures in favor of a new plan for growth and jobs. This plan would include a progressive corporate tax and placing banks under public control. Syriza may win support from fellow anti-bailout party, the Democratic Left, to form a coalition government.

Going Forward
The election Sunday will be a clear choice by Greeks between affirming austerity measures and increasing government spending. This choice will inevitably have ramifications on Greece’s ability to receive aid from the EU and IMF. Both organizations made it clear when Greece received the bailout that cleaning up its fiscal house was a necessary part of the deal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Greece to stick with structural reforms not increased government spending to foster growth. IMF President Christine Lagarde made her thoughts of Greece clear when she accused Greeks of trying to escape taxes, adding that her support lay with the poor people of Niger, not in Athens.

Without European support, Greece will be unable to operate and refinance its massive debts. The world anxiously awaits the Greek decision—government spending or responsible reform?

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