HUFFINGTON POST

Greece Votes In Its Second Election Of 2015

Polls indicate a tight race going into the vote.

Greek voters may be feeling déjà vu Sunday as they head to the polls to cast their ballots in the country's second election and third national vote of this year. 

The two previous votes, the first of which brought former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' left-wing Syriza party to power in January and the second of which rejected a proposed bailout deal, cast long shadows over today's election. 

Tsipras' Syriza party is vying for reelection after a rebellion from members opposing the international bailout split the party in July. Tsipras resigned in August to pave the way for snap elections, hoping to consolidate his power after the schism with a new victory.

There were reports of low turnout in the early hours of the election. At one polling station in Athens, the pace was slow, and some who came out to vote there voiced a general sense of fatigue with the state of Greek politics.

"What is the point in voting for either one of the big parties?" 35-year-old Nikos, who gave no last name out of privacy concerns, told The WorldPost. "They both are going to compete over who will be the one to surrender the country to the bailout already agreed to with the lenders."

He claims he voted blank in protest.

Former Greek prime minister and leader of leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras arrives to vote for the general elections.
Former Greek prime minister and leader of leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras arrives to vote for the general elections.

Syriza held a dominant lead over the next-largest party, the center-right New Democracy, at the beginning of the campaign but has since seen its support fall to similar levels. Polls showed the two parties in a tight race on Friday.

The winner in either case will most likely need to form a coalition government with one or more of the many smaller parties that are also in play. Those include Popular Unity, the new hard-left party formed by former Syriza members, the centrist To Potami party and the anti-immigration, extreme right Golden Dawn.

The dominant issue of the campaign has been Greece's dire economy and the government's handling of the multi-billion dollar bailout deal with European creditors, which the country accepted in exchange for imposing harsh austerity measures.

Syriza was first elected in January on a wave of anti-austerity sentiment that opposed previous bailouts. But the party reversed tack and gave in to creditors' demands when faced with bankruptcy and the prospect of exit from the eurozone if it did not comply.

Despite Syriza's about-face on austerity, many Greeks still see the party as their best option. 

"I voted Syriza like the last time," 50-year-old Maria told The WorldPost in Athens.

"I trust that although they had to strike a very difficult agreement with the lenders, they will try to improve the terms for the whole of society. They are the only ones that care enough to do it."

 The financial chaos in Greece over months of torturous bailout negotiations took its toll on the already devastated economy, causing a massive flight of capital out of Greek banks and leading to the imposition of capital controls restricting the flow of money in the country. Businesses and average Greeks, especially the elderly, suffered heavily. 

At stake in the election is Greece's habitually uncertain future. Whichever party manages to form a government will be faced with significant challenges. Unemployment is at around 25 percent -- with youth unemployment double that -- and there is still a lengthy list of reforms to be passed in order to fulfill the nation's bailout agreement. Creditors have demanded large-scale pension reform, among other changes, and have set targets for Greece to start producing budget surpluses starting in 2016. 

The first review of Greece's bailout reforms is set for October, after which the nation and its creditors can work toward debt restructuring talks. An election result that leaves Greece in a state of uncertainty over which party can form a government may delay and complicate the implementation of the reforms agreed with creditors -- potentially leading the country into further economic turmoil. 

Danae Leivada contributed to this report from Athens.

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Greece Votes In Its Second 2015 Election