Greeks flocked to the polls on Sunday to cast their ballots while political leaders called for high turnout after casting theirs as political analysts have warned this general elections may be inconclusive.
“In today’s elections, I wish and hope that we will have the widest participation. It will be the best moment for democracy,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said after voting in a polling station in Athens.
“Elections are the celebration of democracy. Today, the responsibility for governing the country passes to you, the citizens. I am absolutely sure that tomorrow, an even better day for our country will dawn,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told media while exiting another polling station in Athens, according to a live stream by Greek national broadcaster ERT.
“Today is a day of hope … Change is today in the hands of our people,” Alexis Tsipras, leader of the main opposition party, SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance, said, after casting his vote.
Today’s voting started 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and will continue until 7 p.m.. Exit polls are expected to be released shortly afterwards while the first official estimates are due around 8 p.m., according to the Interior Ministry.
Some 9.8 million citizens of 17 years and above are eligible voters. For the first time 22,816 expatriates could vote at their place of residence in 35 countries abroad. They cast their votes on Saturday.
A total of 36 parties, coalitions, and independents are competing and they need to obtain a three percent of votes threshold to enter the parliament, according to the Greek electoral law.
In previous general elections in July 2019, 42 percent of eligible voters abstained. The conservative New Democracy (ND) party won 39.8 percent of the national vote and 158 seats in the 300-member parliament, while SYRIZA 31.5 percent of votes and 86 seats.
This time, on the eve of the Sunday elections, opinion polls indicated that over 10 percent of eligible Greek voters remain undecided.
All recent opinion surveys suggest that ND will take the lead (with 31-38 percent of votes) but without securing a clear parliamentary majority. The conservatives are expected to be followed by the Leftists of SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance who will receive 25-32 percent, the socialists of PASOK- KINAL (Panhellenic Socialist Movement- Movement for Change) who will get 7-11 percent, and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 5-9 percent, according to pollsters.
During the pre-election campaign most political leaders said that it would be very difficult for post-election alliances to form a stable government coalition at the moment.
If none of the parties can form a government following the Sunday elections, Greece will hold a runoff by early July using a revised electoral system enhancing proportional representation that provides a bonus of up to 50 extra seats for the winning party.
Economy remains the key issue of the elections. Contenders pledged policies to boost growth, create more jobs, increase wages, lower taxes, decrease inequalities to improve living standards for all.
After avoiding a default of the acute debt crisis in 2009, Greece exited the bailout era in 2018 and returned to recovery according to indexes. However, due to the subsequent challenges of the pandemic and energy crisis, the average household and business are still struggling to cope with increased cost of living and inflationary pressure.
“I am voting for a better future for my children and grandchildren. We have been through many difficulties for too long. We need a break. We hope for prosperity,” Marianthi Chryssohoidou, a pensioner, told Xinhua.
“Regardless of who will come first, second or third, the key issue is whether they will all help people to make ends meet,” Stavroula, a private sector employee said. ■