Posted On Monday, June 18, 2012 at 09:07:36 AM
|An elderly woman casts her vote at a polling booth in Athens
Greeks voted on Sunday in crucial elections that could decide the indebted country’s future in the eurozone, with the outcome potentially breaking up the single currency and pitching the world’s major economies into another sharp downturn.
For Greeks, it is the second national election in six weeks and arguably the most critical in decades. It reflects the political turmoil sparked by a two-year financial crisis that some fear could force the country to abandon the euro and return to its old currency, the drachma.
That, in turn, would likely drag down other financially troubled countries and threaten the euro itself.
The two main contending parties, the right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza, have contrasting policies over whether to conform to the strict EU bailout or scrap it.
While the New Democracy party broadly backs conditions of the bailout package, which awarded Greece a total of 240 billion euros (£193 billion) over the past two years, Syriza believe they should be rejected in order to boost spending.
EU officials claim that if Greece does opt to reject the bailout, it will be driven to bankruptcy as all funds will be cut off and it may have to leave the euro.
This would send turmoil throughout the global economy and put further pressure on other beleaguered countries in the eurozone, such as Spain and Italy.
The last opinion polls showed the radical left Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras running neck-and-neck with the conservative New Democracy party of Antonis Samaras. But no party is likely to win enough votes to form a government on its own, meaning a coalition will have to be formed to avoid yet another election.
Leaders from each party expressed optimism over the results after casting their vote on Sunday.
“Today the Greek people speak. Tomorrow a new era for Greece begins,” New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said.
Meanwhile, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said: “We have conquered fear. Today we open a path to hope, to a better future.”
The first official projections were expected late Sunday night. It is the second election to be held in six weeks, after a vote on May 6 proved inconclusive and coalition talks collapsed after 10 days.