JACKI LYDEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.
Greeks are going to the polls today. The economic crisis, a spade of scandals and the government's mishandling of student protests last winter and wildfires this summer are the main election issues. But whoever wins - incumbent conservative New Democracy Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis or socialist PASOK leader George Papandreou - Greeks will be governed once again by one of the two rival dynasties that have dominated politics for decades.
NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Athens.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Compared to past years, this election campaign was noticeably somber. Large election stands in main squares were all but empty. And there weren't any poster wars between rival party volunteers rushing to cover up each other's campaign posters.
Greece is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades. And youth unemployment is approaching 20 percent. In this bleak climate, says Tiadota Nansou(ph) of the World Wildlife Fund, Greek voters are resigned that the battle between two dynasties will bring little or no change.
Ms. TIADOTA NANSOU (World Wildlife Fund): So, people that have affiliation with PASOK - a cousin, a friend, something - they say, okay, I'll cast my vote for PASOK. Other people that are traditionally belong to right-wing families will vote for (unintelligible) simply because that's what they always did.
POGGIOLI: New Democracy and PASOK have been associated with the Karamanlis and Papandreou names for decades. And they're identified with the ideological strife between right and left that dates from the Cold War. They monopolize politics and the labor market. But Nansou says…
Ms. NANSOU: Wherever you go, everybody's fed up.
POGGIOLI: The strongest rejection of dynastic politics is among the young.
(Soundbite of cafeteria)
POGGIOLI: At this university cafeteria, chemistry student Eli Papadapoulou(ph) is determined not to vote.
Ms. ELI PAPADAPOULOU: Because I don't want to vote any of these parties (Foreign language spoken).
POGGIOLI: She adds: I don't care about any of them. I've never voted for anyone.
POGGIOLI: Apostoles Potiades(ph) is a 29-year-old freelance journalist.
Mr. APOSTOLES POTIADES (Freelance Journalist): There is an ethical bankruptcy for anything that is strictly political.
POGGIOLI: He belongs to what's called the 700 generation, the army of well-educated young Greeks forced to accept temporary employment contracts of not more than 700 Euro - less than $1,000 a month.
Mr. POTIADES: Politics in Greece means association with corruption, looking for connections into the parties in order to give them better career opportunities.
Mr. POTIADES: Yeah, cronyism, you could say it like that, followed with nepotism in many cases.
POGGIOLI: Last December, Athens was rocked for weeks by rioting students protesting against an old-fashioned university system and a locked labor market. Unrest continues to simmer close to the surface and could explode again in coming months.
At the Kappa Polling Agency, analyst Teracimus Routsulis(ph) says 95 percent of young Greeks don't trust the mainstream mass media. And, he says, they're also rebelling against their families' identification with one party or the other -a tradition this young pollster also finds oppressive.
Mr. TERACIMUS ROUTSULIS (Analyst, Kappa Polling Agency): I'm 24, but my mother keeps telling me which party to vote. Not just which party, which candidate. That's my nightmare every four years. I guess that's the nightmare of many of us.
POGGIOLI: Widespread Greek malaise was also triggered by the government's ineffective response to waves of summer wildfires that have caused devastating damage to agriculture and forests.
Yanis Zapitakis(ph) is a food chemistry professor who is running as a candidate for the small Environmental Party. He believes alternating governing dynasties have stifled the development of a civic consciousness and widened the gap between the political elite and society.
Professor YANIS ZAPITAKES (Environmental Party Candidate): We have been burned, in a way, by the fire, but metaphorical, as well, we have been burned by these two big families and this flip of the coin PASOK or New Democracy.
POGGIOLI: The last poll two weeks ago put the socialist PASOK party in the lead.
Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Athens.
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