NEWS

Greeks to vote for local officials in foretaste of EU elections

By Eleni Chrepa & Antonis Galanopoulos

Greeks vote on May 18 to elect representatives in the country’s municipalities and prefectures in a last confrontation between the government of Antonis Samaras and the main opposition Syriza party before next week’s European elections.

The local government poll offers national parties the chance to build momentum before voters choose their representatives for the European Parliament a week later. Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras this week billed the European vote as a “referendum” on the country’s political situation as he seeks support for plans to reverse the austerity imposed by euro area governments and the International Monetary Fund.

“It’s certain that the local government vote will affect European elections,” Kostas Panagopoulos, head of Alco polling company said in a May 9 telephone interview. “It’s the first time we have local government elections a week before European elections.”

A total of about 9.9 million Greeks will choose their local representatives in the country’s 13 prefectures and 56 municipalities with vote beginning at 7 a.m. and finishing at 7 p.m. Athens time. If the leading candidate fails to secure more than 50 percent in any one vote, a runoff election between those in the first two positions will be held next week.

Local government and European elections will cost the Greek state 75 million euros ($102.9 million), according to Interior Ministry figures.

A majority of 54 percent in a GPO poll said the national political situation would be the main factor in their voting, while 42 percent said they’d be more swayed by local problems. GPO surveyed 1,000 people for Mega TV between April 30 and May 5.

What’s at stake in these elections is for Greece to “get rid of bailouts,” Nikos Voutsis, General Secretary of Syriza’s parliamentary group, said in an interview. “Election results will bring political developments as soon as June.”

The country has lost a quarter of its economic output during a six-year recession under the weight of a series of austerity measures tied to its 240 billion euro bailouts.

Injecting those national issues into local politics makes it harder for local officials to do their jobs, said Dora Bakoyiannis, a former mayor of Athens from Samaras’s New Democracy party.

“Local government is a place for cooperation not exclusion,” Bakoyiannis said in an e-mailed response to questions. “I deeply believe we should avoid trying to exploit the results of the local government elections. And this applies to all parties.”

The governing New Democracy party would get 24.5 percent of the vote if national elections were held now, compared with 23.1 percent for Syriza, a May 12 GPO poll for Mega TV showed. The junior coalition partner Pasok polled sixth with 5.9 percent in the survey of 1,300 people conducted between May 8 and May 12. The margin of error was 2.7 percent.

[Bloomberg]

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