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Voting Underway in Greece; Socialists Seek Fourth Consecutive Term

Parliamentary elections are under way in Greece, where long-ruling socialists and opposition conservatives are locked in a close race.

The socialists, who have been in power 19 of the last 23 years, are vying for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term.

But opinion polls show the conservative New Democracy Party with a slim three-precent lead over the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).

Ten million voters face a choice of two political dynasties that have dominated political life in Greece in the past three decades. The head of the conservatives is Costas Karamanlis, the nephew of a former prime minister who led the country out of military dictatorship. The leader of the socialists is George Papandreou, the son and grandson of past Greek prime ministers.

Both leaders say preparations for the Summer Olympic Games in Athens in August is a top priority. Many venues for the Games, including the main Olympic stadium, have yet to be completed.

Other pressing issues include efforts to reunify the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus and public concern over a jump in prices since Greece adopted the euro currency.

Voting in Greece is mandatory, although penalties are hardly ever enforced..

Polls are scheduled to close at 1630 UTC, with preliminary results expected a few hours later.

Mr. Papandreou's father founded the socialist party in 1974 and served three times as prime minister. His grandfather also held the post in the 1960s.

Conservative leader Costas Karamanlis is the nephew of New Democracy Party founder Constantine Karamanlis, who served as prime minister and president.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.