Greek vote to determine fate of European Union
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, a 37-year-old former student activist, casts his vote at a polling station in Athens. EPA photo
Debt-stricken Greece voted yesterday amid global fears that victory by parties that have vowed to cancel the country’s international bailout agreements and accompanying austerity measures could undermine the European Union’s joint currency and send the world’s major economies into another sharp downturn.
For Greeks, it is the second national election in six weeks and arguably the most critical in decades, reflecting political turmoil sparked by a two-year financial crisis that some fear could force the country to abandon the euro and return to its old currency, the drachma. That in turn would likely drag down other financially troubled countries and threaten the euro itself.
No party is likely to win enough votes to form a government on its own, meaning a coalition will have to be formed to avoid yet another election. Inconclusive elections on May 6 resulted in no party winning enough votes to form a government, and coalition talks collapsed after 10 days.
‘Greeks conquered fear’
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, a 37-year-old former student activist, has vowed to rip up Greece’s bailout agreements and repeal the austerity measures. Greeks have “conquered fear” and will keep their place as an “equal member” of Europe, Tsipras said yesterday. “We have conquered fear. Today we open a path to hope, to a better future,” he said. For his part, conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has cast the choice as being one between the euro and returning to the country’s old currency, the drachma. He has vowed to renegotiate some of the terms of the accompanying austerity, but insists the top priority is for the country to remain in Europe’s joint currency.
European leaders have also cautioned that Greece could be left outside the 17-nation eurozone if it pulls out of its bailout commitments.