Greek citizens return today to the polls in yet another attempt to piece together a governance system in a highly divided sociopolitical environment. At stake, the future of Greece and the containment of the rapidly dissolving confidence in the euro. What is uncertain, who will Greeks vote for?
As the Greek elections continued to unfold two parties emerged as the front runners to assume the mantel in shaping Greece’s next government: New Democracy and Syriza. To better understand how the leading candidates, Alex Tspiras (Syriza) and Antonios Samaras (New Democracy), will shape the future of Greece and the euro zone, here’s a quick recap of where they stand on the leading issues for Greek citizens:
1. Alex Tspiras, Syriza:
Syriza is left-leaning and holds a pro-euro currency, anti-austerity, pro-nationalization platform. With Tspiras in power, Greek citizens can be assured that the government role will expand in the financial community by permanently assuming full ownership of their banking system. A Tspiras-led government will attempt to scrap the current terms of the bailout thereby increasing the probability of a forced exit from the euro zone as both sides overreach on the terms of any bailout packages. It's a certainty that taxes in Greece will continue to rise.
In his last major speech before the election, Alex Tspiras avoided any references to Syriza’s plans for bank nationalization, as well as the nationalization of health care and mass transit systems (including rail and airports). He reaffirmed his commitment to the euro and implored, “On Monday don’t bet your money on Greece exiting the euro zone. You will lose.” Instead, they are to say, “No to the memorandum of bankruptcy. Yes to the euro with a national recovery plan, that will rebuild the economy and protect the people from bankruptcy.”
2. Antonis Samaras, New Democracy:
New Democracy is the conservative voice in the election with a consistent “jobs first” platform. A Samaras-led government would follow a more pragmatic prescription for the financial crisis and work toward creating more favorable bail-out terms that ensures Greece can focus on policies to support private sector job growth and stabilization of essential services.
In his last major speech before the run-off, Samaras reiterated that he has no intentions to continue on the path of mass firing public sector workers nor does he have plans for additional tax hikes or salary cuts. He said, "I don't believe in and I don't want any more salary reduction or any more taxes. Those salary reductions that were carried out destroyed the (consumer) market." He reminded the voters, "The first choice the Greek people must make is: euro versus drachma.” He also assured the citizens that Greece “will exit the crisis; we will not exit the euro. We will not let anyone take us out of Europe.”
Each candidate has voiced support for staying in the euro and have divergent plans on how to get Greece back on its feet. Due to the constitutional provision prohibiting official opinion polling two weeks before an election it’s difficult to determine who will emerge as Greece’s next leader. Yet shadow polling organizations continue to report that from 10% to 15% of the Greek voting base remains undecided. Further, the adverse realities of leaving the euro zone are now sinking in with 8 out of 10 Greeks in favor of staying in the euro.
Other parties vying for a seat in Greece’s parliamentary table have seen public support drop. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) lost support when suspicion arose that they were somehow involved with the anarchistic riots earlier this year. Fotis Kouvelis and the Independent Greeks have barely received mention in the political fray. Finally, allegedly neo-nazi leaning Golden Dawn lost a small portion of their base after their party spokesman decided to beat up communist Liana Kanellie on live television.
Regardless of shadow polls and minority party support, today Greece will head to the polls with a clear choice between two candidates: Samaras who envisions stabilizing public sector influence, Greece’s GDP and increasing the reliance on private sector growth; or, Tspiras who envisions increasing public sector GDP well beyond the 50%, the main reason why austerity continues to fail Greece.