The more than 9.8 million voters of Greece are being called to the ballot booths on May 18 2014 in the first of two rounds of voting in local elections, with the leading political parties in the race closely tied and with the outcome, in parallel with the European Parliament elections on May 25, likely to determine the future or otherwise of the current government.
In all, there are about 50 000 candidates across the country, most standing in the elections in 325 municipalities and the rest in the elections in Greece’s 13 regions. In the municipality of Athens alone, there are about 1200 candidates.
Perhaps inevitably, notwithstanding the local government nature of the elections, from the outset of the campaign period they have been a contest between left-wing Syriza, which wants them to be a referendum opening the way for the ouster of the coalition government in which its rival New Democracy is a partner.
In the last few days before the first round of voting, opinion polls from different agencies showed different scenarios as to whether Syriza or New Democracy was in the lead.
Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras is playing for confidence in his government’s dealings in seeking to bring the country out of six years of recession, while Syriza is seeking a mandate to gain power and turn Greece away from the painful path of austerity measures.
Further, Samaras has pledged more money for citizens whose households are suffering under the austerity measures, pledging to use up to 350 million in EU structural funding up to 2020 to assist underprivileged Greeks.
Already, Samaras has sought to minimise potential electoral damage from anger at austerity measures by reaching out to Greeks who will benefit from a shareout from the budget surplus.
Unsurprisingly, as recent history saw the rise of Syriza at the expense of once-powerful Pasok, other parties are seeking to catch the swell of resentment against Greece’s political establishment and the burden that Greeks are having to bear.
One is recently-formed centrist To Potami, led by Stavros Theodorakis, and the other is centre-left Elia (Olive Tree), seeking to get back the ground lost by Pasok. Ahead of the first weekend’s election, there was little or nothing to suggest that Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos, who took his party into the Elia movement, had made any headway.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is hoping that once the two rounds of local election voting are over and as the results come up from May 25 European Parliament vote, the dawn of May 26 will see his party a step closer to a fresh national parliamentary election fight.
But speaking of dawns, there will still be Golden Dawn, permitted by the supreme court to stand in the local and European elections, and whose performance will be the first indicator of how it has fared amid its electorate after the controversies in which the extremist party has been embroiled in recent years.
(Photo of Athens: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)