Tuesday 24 October 2017

Europe on edge as Greeks set to elect hard-left government

Damien McElroy in Athens

GREECE appears set to elect an untested hard-Left political newcomer as its next prime minister after rival leaders set an election date of June 17 and installed a caretaker government with few powers.

Popular support has swung to anti-bailout parties in the days since the country delivered an inconclusive election result on May 6.

Deadlocked politicians forced a new election yesterday as polls showed that Alexis Tsipras of the Syriza party was likely to emerge as the leading force.

However, after meeting President Karolos Papoulias, heads of the seven parties which won seats in parliament named the new interim leader as Panagiotis Pikrammenos, who runs the supreme administrative court.

Lasr night a new poll confirmed what others have shown: that radical left-wingers who reject the terms of a bailout agreed with the EU and IMF are now poised for victory, and the establishment parties that agreed the rescue are sinking further.

An Athens University poll showed support for Syriza in the capital and suburbs had soared to 31.9pc.

A second nationwide survey showed Syriza rising to 20pc, easily stronger than stalwart conservative New Democracy on 14pc.

With a top-up of 50 MPs to the first party and the support of like-minded Left-wingers, Mr Tsipras is well in sight of a majority in the 300-strong parliament.

The Leftists argue they can tear up the bailout and keep the euro, but European leaders say if Greece fails to meet promises , lenders will pull the plug on financing, driving Athens to bankruptcy and a swift exit from the euro.

Drachma

While most Greeks remain adamant the country should not quit the euro, there is a growing feeling that the demise of the old two-party system of New Democracy and its socialist rival Pasok is positive.

"It had to come, most of us think that the old parties had to die," said Militos Charalampidis, a music student who is emigrating in search of a career.

Reduced costs of labour either by devaluation from adopting a new drachma, or by accepting lower wages, is something that Greeks appear ready to accept.

Greece's new MPs will gather to confirm the interim government and election today in a session that is to be the shortest in living memory. But for the markets the wait for a new government will cause strain.

Aleka Papariya, the head of the Communist Party, said that the interim government could not make any binding international commitments. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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