Greece sets Sept. 20 vote as left­ist party leads polls

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOHN HADOULIS

Greece geared up Fri­day for a snap elec­tion next month, with an opin­ion poll show­ing left­ist party Syriza ahead de­spite a wave of de­fec­tions over the coun­try’s mas­sive new bailout.

The state- run ANA news agency said Pres­i­dent Prokopis Pavlopoulous had signed a de­cree dis­solv­ing par­lia­ment and con­firm­ing the widely-ex­pected date of Septem­ber 20 for the cri­sis-hit coun­try’s fifth elec­tion in six years.

A care­taker gov­ern­ment ap­pointed by Pavlopou­los to or­ga­nize the elec­tion took of­fice ear­lier Fri­day with Greece’s top judge as prime min­is­ter, re­plac­ing Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras who re­signed last week.

Tsipras, who rode to power in Jan­uary on a wave of pop­u­lar anger over aus­ter­ity, is now seek­ing re-elec­tion to im­ple­ment more re­forms de­manded un­der the new 86-bil­lion-euro (US$96-bil­lion) in­ter­na­tional res­cue pack­age.

A poll in left­ist news­pa­per Efimerida ton Syn­tak­ton gave Syriza only a slim 3.5-point lead over the con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy.

The sur­vey by poll­sters Pro­Rata said 23 per­cent of vot­ers would sup­port Syriza over 19.5 per­cent for New Democ­racy.

But more than a quar­ter of those polled said they were un­de­cided.

Greece ‘will only go for­ward’

“To­day the great elec­toral bat­tle be­gins. The Greek peo­ple will give a strong man­date for the present and the fu­ture,” Tsipras said in a state­ment to the Syriza newspa- per Avgi.

“Greece can­not turn back and will not turn back. It will only go for­ward.”

The poll found that 64 per­cent of vot­ers dis­agreed with Tsipras’ de­ci­sion to step down, and one in two were unim­pressed with his prom­ise to ease the aus­ter­ity mea­sures he rat­i­fied if re-elected.

Syriza was hit by a wave of de­fec­tions af­ter Tsipras signed up to the third bailout, which crit­ics say is the harsh­est Greece has adopted so far.

A group of 25 hard­line law­mak­ers split off to form their own party, Pop­u­lar Unity, and Syriza has also been hit with res­ig­na­tions at lo­cal party level.

Ac­cord­ing to Fri­day’s opin­ion poll, Pop­u­lar Unity would pick up 3.5 per­cent of the vote, just above the min­i­mum re­quired for par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

“We will do our ut­most so that the elec­tions are held in flaw­less fash­ion,” Supreme Court head Vas­si­liki Thanou, Greece’s first fe­male PM, told the inau­gu­ral meet­ing of her in­terim cab­i­net.

Cuts ‘an­ni­hi­lat­ing’ the Peo­ple

Thanou, 65, has al­ready in­di­cated that she also in­tends to tackle is­sues such as the huge in­flux of mi­grants and refugees dur­ing her brief term.

The vet­eran judge is known for her crit­i­cal stance to­wards aus­ter­ity — in Fe­bru­ary she wrote to Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief JeanClaude Juncker to warn that the cuts were “an­ni­hi­lat­ing” the Greek peo­ple.

Tsipras’ eight months in power have proved a roller­coaster for the trou­bled Greek econ­omy.

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