Greeks Weigh Austerity, Discontent Ahead of May 6 Elections

A protester shouts slogans during a May Day protest in Athens, May 1, 2012.
A protester shouts slogans during a May Day protest in Athens, May 1, 2012.
Dominic Laurie

After two, huge financial bailouts in the past three years, the reputation of the two main traditional parties in Greece - the Socialists and the Conservatives - has suffered. Greek voters are heading into a general election Sunday wondering whether mainstream politics and politicians are still relevant.

Sunny Rethimno harbor, located on the northern coast of Crete features a sapphire-blue sea on one side and snow-capped mountains on the other. It is just a few days before the start of the tourist season. Bars and restaurants are starting to fill up. Locals say they have weathered Greece's austerity plans better than in the capital, Athens.


Last year’s tourist season was good because of protests in North Africa deterring travel there. But this year is not so good. Residents say German tourists are wary of being insulted, and American tourists are scared of being caught in a riot.

One hotel manager said he thought this summer would be “catastrophic.”  

Voter discontent

Many Greeks blame the two main parties for the corruption and mismanagement that have put Greece in its present bind. The parties are expected to lose half their seats.  

The Socialist deputy mayor of Rethimno, Pepi Birliraki, says Greek voters have a right to be edgy.

"I am afraid we made a lot of mistakes," said Birliraki. "Nevertheless, I believe that we can overcome it. I know that we are just starting to learn from our mistakes. And I do know that we do have the force and the power to be stronger, wiser.”

Many young Greeks feel betrayed by the older generation.  

Take Sifis Mamalakis and Stelios Stavridakis are two restaurant-owners in the town. Mamalakis is not going to vote. He has lost trust in the main parties.

"I think that showing the government that the majority of people is not going to vote means something," said Mamalakis.  "I believe it is much bigger than going to vote for the small parties.”

Who to vote for

Stavridakis is equally frustrated with politicians from his parents' generation, but, unlike Mamalakis, he says he will vote for one of the smaller parties.

"Abstaining or not going to vote does not solve the problem," said Stavridakis.  "You are part of the problem so you have to go to vote, in my opinion.  If you do not vote, a big percentage will go to the two big parties that are first.”

Sunday’s election will radically change the makeup of Greek politics. The big traditional parties will be weaker.  

The more than 10 smaller parties that will gain seats are against austerity imposed by the European Union. Many want out of the eurozone. If their presence in parliament is big enough, they might one day get their way. The consequences of that are unknown, but even now, Greeks are looking into an uncertain future.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs