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Greece - Elections 2009

Election - 04 October 2009
PASOK George Papandreou 43.92 160 (+58)
New Democracy Costas Karamanlis 33.48 91 (-61)
Communist Party Aleka Papariga 7.54 21 (-1)
Orthodox Rally (LAOS) George Karatzaferis 5.63 15 (+5)
SYRIZA Alexis Tspiras 4.60 13 (-1)
(Total)300
On 3 September 2009 Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis asked President Karolos Papoulias to dissolve Parliament with a view to holding early elections arguing that he needed a new mandate to help steer the country out of the economic crisis. On 7 September President Papoulias dissolved Parliament and called elections for 4 October nearly two years before they were constitutionally due.

In the previous elections held in September 2007 Prime Minister Karamanlis' New Democracy Party (ND) took 152 of the 300 seats. The Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) took 102 seats. The Communist Party (KKE) Coalition of the Radical Left (Sy.Riz.A) and the People's Orthodox Alarm (La.O.S) took 22 14 and 10 seats respectively. Mr. Karamanlis who had been Prime Minister since March 2004 subsequently formed a new government.

The 2009 elections were held against the backdrop of the global economic crisis. The unemployment rate reached 8.5 per cent in May 2009. The government provided 28 billion euros in bailout packages to banks and privatized several public-sector companies in a bid to boost investment and create jobs. The country's public debt is expected to exceed 100 per cent of GDP in 2009. The budget deficit is expected to rise to 6.2 percent of GDP in 2009 and 7.3 per cent in 2010. The European Union (EU) has set 2010 as the deadline for Greece to reduce its budget deficit.

The ND was reportedly troubled by financial scandals involving some of its members. Two ministers resigned in connection with an exchange of land between the State and the Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos in which the State reportedly lost 100 million euros. Prime Minister Karamanlis was criticized for his handling of the fires that came close to Athens in August 2009.

The 2009 elections once again saw a duel between the ND and the PASOK. The latter was again led by Mr. George Papandreou whose father (Andreas) and grand-father (George) had also served as prime ministers. The Papandreou and Karamanlis families have been major players in the country's politics since democracy was established in Greece in 1955. Outgoing Prime Minister Karamanlis is the nephew of Mr. Konstantin Karamanlis a former president who served between 1980 and 1995.

Both the ND and the PASOK underscored the need to tackle the economic crisis albeit with different approaches. Prime Minister Karamanlis promised to reduce State spending by 30 per cent over the next two years. He pledged to freeze salaries pensions and public-sector hiring in 2010 and accelerate privatizations.

The PASOK meanwhile pledged to boost the economy by spending at least 5 per cent of GDP on public investment each year and increasing public sector salaries unemployment benefits and retirement pensions. It pledged to renegotiate past privatizations and discontinue ongoing privatization plans. The PASOK also promised to reduce taxes for persons earning less than 30 000 euros per year while re-establishing wealth and inheritance taxes. Mr. Papandreou said that he would negotiate with the EU to extend the deadline for reducing the budget deficit by three years.

The two parties also differed on immigration policy. The ND pledged to impose longer detention periods on illegal immigrants. The PASOK promised to grant citizenship to all immigrant children born in Greece and local voting rights to immigrants who have legally lived in the country for more than five years.

Although voting is compulsory only 70.92 per cent of the 9.9 million registered voters turned out at the polls down from 74.14 per cent in 2007.

On October 4, 2009, PASOK won the early parliamentary election with 160 seats to ND's 91. PASOK leader George Papandreou succeeded Karamanlis as Prime Minister. On February 3, 2010, Papoulias was re-elected President by parliament with a majority of 266 votes out of 300. The Socialist government had a comfortable 160 majority out of a total of 300 seats and there are four opposition parties that control the rest of the votes.

PASOK soon discovered the country was deep in debt. It entered into a coalition in late 2011 with the conservative New Democracy party, with the aim of getting parliament to pass the tough economic austerity measures. As the Greek debt crisis heightened, on 07 November 2011, Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank official, was named as the caretaker prime minister. His role was to oversee the country's negotiations to cut its debt, secure the bailout and impose the cuts in spending for social programs.

The economic crisis divided Greeks, who appeared split on the causes and solutions to the country's financial meltdown. The political stalemate only appeared to be entrenching these divisions. On 13 February 2012 Greece said it would hold a national election in April to replace the caretaker government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. The announcement was made a day after rioters torched the center of Athens and parliament adopted a new round of controversial austerity measures. Nearly 200 deputies in the 300-seat parliament approved of the cost-cutting, but 43 members of the ruling coalition voted against it and were expelled from the socialist and conservative parties.

Originally, elections were not planned until 2013. Greece's technocrat prime minister, Lucas Papademos, resigned 11 April 2012, setting the stage for the country's first national election since the debt crisis engulfed the Athens government. Government officials said the election would be 06 May 2012. An April 2012 GPO/Mega poll put New Democracy at 18.2 percent (down from 19.4 percent in February 2012), while Pasok stood at 14.2 percent (up from 13.1 percent). Based on these poll numbers, New Democracy would fail to win an absolute majority. Other parties: Communist Party (KKE) 8%, Radical Independent Greeks 7%, Left Coalition (Syriza) 6.2 %, Democratic Left 5.9%, Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) 4% and Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avyi) 3.1%.





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