Greeks head to polls for third time this year

Outgoing PM Alexis Tsipras tries to win back disillusioned voters in neck-and-neck contest

Ekip   | 20.09.2015
Greeks head to polls for third time this year Greek general elections

by Magda Panoutsopoulou


 Polling stations have opened in Greece for the third time this year as almost 10 million voters choose a new prime minister and government.

Outgoing leftist premier, Alexis Tsipras, had made pre-election promises in January to put an end to the austerity measures which have battered Greeks for years.

However, Tsipras eventually agreed to a third bailout of €86 billion ($97 billion) with tight reforms plus the continuation of hard measures imposed on the country.

Following Tsipras’s turnaround, his Syriza party split, with its Left Platform bloc – lead by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis – later forming an anti-austerity party called Popular Unity.

A loss of support from former colleagues forced Tsipras to call early elections.

Opinion polls conducted this week have shown a neck-and-neck battle between Syriza and the conservative New Democracy party headed by Evangelos Meimarakis.

Despite the fact that many Greeks are still undecided, a Friday poll gave Syriza a lead of 2.5 percentage points over New Democracy in two surveys by GPO and the University of Macedonia on behalf of private broadcasters Mega and SKAI respectively.

According to the GPO survey, Syriza could win 28.5 percent, New Democracy 26 percent, Golden Dawn 6.1 percent, PASOK 6 percent, the Greek Communist Party 5.7 percent, Potami 4.8 percent, Popular Unity 3.9 percent, ANEL 3 percent and the Union of Centrists 2.8 percent.

The ‘undecided’ vote was 12 percent.

The University of Macedonia poll put Syriza at 31 percent, New Democracy at 28.5 percent, Golden Dawn at 6.5 percent, Potami at 4.5 percent, the Communists at 5 percent, ANEL at 2 percent, PASOK at 5 percent, Popular Unity at 3 percent, the Union of Centrists at 3 percent and 'others' on 3 percent.

Another 8.5 percent answered “don’t know, did not answer”.

Coalition options

Questions are being asked if, assuming Syriza and Tsipras win the biggest vote, if they will have enough seats to be able to form a stable coalition government.

If Tsipras decides to form a coalition with New Democracy – which he has ruled out – this could bring back to the surface the extreme-right Golden Dawn party as opposition.

In last-minute campaigning on Friday, Tsipras tried to win back support from disillusioned voters.

“On Sunday, we have ahead of us one more crucial referendum. The ballot’s dilemma is whether we’ll let Greece go backwards or continue together the great effort we started in January; to restore dignity to the country,” he told a crowd gathered at Syntagma Square in Athens.

Voting for the 19 participating parties started at 7 a.m. local time [0500 GMT]; the polls will stay open for 12 hours.

First estimates are expected at 9.30 p.m. local time.

Greek electoral system 

Greek electoral law states that 250 of the 300 seats in parliament are allocated, according to proportional representation, to each party that clears a three percent threshold.

If all parties participating were to clear the threshold, then a vote share of about 40% would be needed to gain an outright majority of 151 seats.

The share needed for a majority falls according to how many of the parties participating fail to enter parliament.

The party with the majority of votes automatically wins a 50-seat premium in order to form a stable government.

If the first party does not have enough seats to form a government, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos will give the leader of the first-place party a mandate to form a coalition.

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