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The Euro Question Divides Greeks Ahead Of Election

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The Euro Question Divides Greeks Ahead Of Election

Europe

The Euro Question Divides Greeks Ahead Of Election

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, while Egypt looks at re-running their parliamentary election, that process is already underway in Greece. Voters there go back to the polls Sunday after an inconclusive election in May left the country without a governing coalition. Like the last time, the debate has been highly polarized. Two major parties on the ballot sum up the stark choice facing Greeks. The conservatives of the New Democracy Party support the EU bailout deal, and the leftist Syriza Party vows to ditch the harsh bailout and austerity plan. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports as the country sinks deeper into the debt crisis.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking Greek)

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: This New Democracy TV spot raises the specter of a Greek eurozone exit. A teacher lists other members.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: (Speaking Greek)

POGGIOLI: A little girl asks: And Greece, sir? Why not Greece?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking Greek)

POGGIOLI: A deep baritone weighs in: We don't play with our kids' future.

VASSILIOS DASCALOPOULOS: Fear is the ruling factor in these elections.

POGGIOLI: Vassilios Dascalopoulos is a political consultant.

DASCALOPOULOS: Fear of uncertainty, insecurity, it's the most constant parameter.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

POGGIOLI: Outside a New Democracy kiosk, 21-year-old Maria Kousiaki echoes the party's apocalyptic warning.

MARIA KOUSIAKI: I fear economic problems with the bank, with politics, anarchy, and maybe fascism.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING)

POGGIOLI: Cheers break out for party leader Antonis Samaras.

ANTONIS SAMARAS NEW DEMOCRACY PARTY: We are trying to getting rid of all this very negative climate which jeopardizes our future, because there are no investments, because tourism is going down unfortunately due to this very negative environment.

POGGIOLI: And yet despite the fear of Greece's banishment from the eurozone is Syriza wins, the radical leftist party has won over a large portion of the depleted middle class in this austerity-weary country. It's slogan in simple but optimistic: We leave the bailout behind the open the path to hope.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

POGGIOLI: Thrakomakedones is a residential area and long-time New Democracy stronghold. It's a hot afternoon, but many residents gather for a Syriza town hall-like meeting. They want to know what a Syriza government would do for them - retirees whose pensions were slashed, bankrupt businessmen, young people with no job prospects. A psychotherapist appropriately named Terapia Masaraki, says many Greeks will switch to Syriza because it promises to restore what they lost.

TERAPIA MASARAKI. PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Many people are not so depressed. They have hope because they want to change. No longer passive. No. It's over in Greece. Over. We want to change.

POGGIOLI: Two months ago, Syriza was a marginal far-left party, but in the May 6 elections it soared to 16 percent. It came in second to New Democracy, which like the other long-governing Socialist Party suffered huge losses thanks to its support for tough German-dictated austerity measures known as the memorandum. With a 40-year-old political establishment imploding, political consultant Dascalopoulos says Syriza has projected a solid image.

DASCALOPOULOS: They have been persistent to their message of anti-memorandum agenda, and they have been able to create an umbrella for all protest in Greece, from far right to far left.

POGGIOLI: But reviving the economy is a daunting task. Five years of recession, salaries slashed up to 50 percent, unemployment at record highs, health care cut to the bone. George Stathakis a Syriza MP and economist, outlines his party's plan to reverse the downward spiral.

GEORGE STATHAKIS: It will be a major redistribution of income from the wealthy to the poorer strata of the society, protect the welfare state, and try to improve its performance. We will freeze wages and salaries at the current level.

POGGIOLI: No single party is expected to win an outright majority, but Syriza is running neck and neck with New Democracy, despite vocal warning from many E.U. leaders that a bailout rejection will lead to a deeper crisis and Greece's exit from the eurozone. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Athens.

GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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