Athens: Greece geared up today for a snap election next month, with an opinion poll showing leftist party Syriza ahead despite a wave of defections over the country’s massive new bailout. The state-run ANA news agency said President Prokopis Pavlopoulos had signed a decree dissolving parliament and confirming the widely-expected date of September 20 for the crisis-hit country’s fifth election in six years.
A caretaker government appointed by Pavlopoulos to organise the election took office earlier today with Greece’s top judge Vassiliki Thanou as prime minister, replacing Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras who resigned last week. Tsipras, who rode to power in January on a wave of popular anger over austerity, is now seeking re-election to implement more reforms demanded under the new 86-billion-euro (USD 96-billion) international rescue package.
A poll in leftist newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton gave Syriza only a slim 3.5-point lead over the conservative New Democracy. The survey by pollsters ProRata said 23 per cent of voters would support Syriza over 19.5 per cent for New Democracy. But more than a quarter of those polled said they were undecided.
“Today the great electoral battle begins. The Greek people will give a strong mandate for the present and the future,” Tsipras said in a statement to Syriza newspaper Avgi. “Greece cannot turn back and will not turn back. It will only go forward,” he said
However, the country can for now look forward to more recession, despite posting growth in the second quarter of the year, the new interim finance minister said today. “The Greek economy has already entered a recessionary phase. We hope it will not last long,” said George Chouliarakis, head of the state economic advisor council, and the top negotiator with Greece’s creditors.
The past eight months since Syriza came to power have proved a rollercoaster for the troubled Greek economy. As talks broke down in June between Athens and its international creditors and Greeks rejected austerity proposals in a referendum, the European Central Bank restricted its assistance to Greek banks, forcing the government to shut them down and impose capital controls to avert a run on deposits.