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Greeks Divided as Election Stalemate Looms Again

  • Henry Ridgwell

ATHENS - The final day of polling before the repeat election in Greece on June 17 showed the two main contenders neck and neck. The economic crisis has divided Greeks, who appear split on the causes and solutions to the country's financial meltdown. The political stalemate only appears to be entrenching these divisions.

Industrial disputes do not get much worse than this. The workers at the Hellenic Halyvourgia steel plant have been on strike for more than 200 days. Yorgos Sifonios is president of the workers’ union. He showed letters of solidarity from unions across the world.

“The Union has undertaken collective action, which has roused the whole of Greece's working class. Our strike has become a landmark, a model of how all workers must fight,” Sifonios said.

The factory’s owner laid off 50 workers last year, blaming falling demand. The company declined an interview.

The workers say production was actually increasing. Among those on the picket line is Panayiotis Papanikolaou, who has worked at the factory for more than 20 years.

“Right now, I think most of the workers will support and vote for Syriza - not PASOK or New Democracy - because Syriza supports the workers,” Papanikolaou said.

Greek unemployment hit a record 21.7 percent in February. More than half of young people have no job.

Alex Tsipras, the 37-year-old leader, of the Syriza Party, has vowed to cancel the austerity program insisted on by the European Union in return for financial bailouts.

Results from Friday, the last day of polling before the June 17 election, show Syriza and New Democracy - which supports the bailout - each holding around 26 percent.
Anastasios Georgiadis is director of Kapa Research, which carried out the poll.

“Based on today’s information, it will be no easier to form a government than it was on May 7 [after the first election],” Georgiadis said.

Analysts say the economic crisis has polarized Greek politics. Nikos Christodoulou from Merit Securities says the markets would punish a Syriza victory.

“The market wants a more pro-European government which would implement the reforms and would not attack the bailout agreement,” Christodoulou said.

Athens residents flocked to the beach Saturday and Sunday to enjoy the sun and try to forget about the crisis.

In less than two weeks, they return to the polls knowing another economic storm could soon follow.