Anger and anxiety weigh on Greeks in historic election
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoGreeks spoke of their fears for the future on Sunday as they cast their ballots in a historic election that could decide whether their stricken country stays in the euro or returns to the drachma.
"I think that most people are anxious because the future is very dark," Tonia Katerini, a 54-year-old architect, told AFP after casting her ballot in an elementary school in the upmarket Kolonaki district in central Athens.
Katerini said she voted for Syriza, a radical leftist party that has vowed to tear up a bailout deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund that has given Greece a credit lifeline in exchange for harsh austerity.
"The situation in the last two years has been very hard for most people so I believe we have to make a big change," she said as dozens of people scanned electoral lists in front of an Orthodox church as the bell tolled for mass.
Syriza came a surprise second after conservative New Democracy in elections on May 6 that failed to produce a government, triggering Sunday's vote.
Emmanuel Kamkoutis, a 68-year-old pensioner, said he voted for the right because he wanted "a pro-European government and not a communist one." "We signed something. We can't just take it back," he said, referring to the bailout deal. "We have to try very hard to keep ourselves in the euro." Stavros Logaras, 53, said he was casting his ballot for the Communist party.
"Everybody is confused because the propaganda of fear from European partners and Greek parties has been very great," Logaras said.
"We would like another style of government," he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Greeks on the eve of the election to vote for lawmakers who will abide by the bailout and Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned a radical left win would have "uncertain" results for the euro.
At a polling station in another school in the working-class Pangrati district of Athens, 33-year-old tourism sector worker Iro Boussaini said she wanted to tell Germany: "Stop calling us lazy, come here and see how hard we work." She said she voted Communist but believed that New Democracy would end up winning and the new cabinet would have "the same people who sold the country." "I'm fed up. I don't expect anything from these elections," she said.
Kostas Yiannakopoulos, who has been unemployed for the past four years, said: "I will vote for (New Democracy leader Antonis) Samaras. I hope it will make things better.
"I don't trust (Syriza leader Alexis) Tsipras, he will take us out of the eurozone," he said.
Erika, a dance teacher in her 50s, said she, too, voted for New Democracy.
"I am sure they will win and I don't think we will leave the eurozone.... Thanks to this election I hope we will come back to a peaceful, happy Greece." But at the Kolonaki polling station, Andreas Pappas, 62, said he was concerned about the risk of Greece crashing out of the European Union.
"I want Greece to remain in the eurozone and the European Union. We used to think it was something we could take for granted. We have never faced a situation like this." "This is an election that makes people very, very anxious." The interior ministry said the election was proceeding smoothly.
Police said they were seeking a 22-year-old man who fired a shotgun in the air outside a polling station on the island of Zakynthos and then fled.
And in Thessaloniki, two men were arrested for assaulting a station supervisor and damaging the ballot box.
But polling stations opened on time in rural areas near Athens ravaged by a wildfire that started on Saturday, apparently lit by a spark from workers who had been welding near the town of Keratea, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Athens.
"We were informed that all polling stations in the area opened as scheduled," the office of regional governor Yiannis Sgouros told AFP.