What you need to know about today's Greek election

Francesca Washtell
Sunday 25 January 2015 10:00
news

Greeks are taking to the polls to vote in a snap general election that could see Greece renegotiating its relationship with Europe.

With a stagnating economy and an unemployment figure of around 25 per cent, an exit poll on Sunday evening suggested the anti-austerity, radical left party Syriza will be the strong winner in a country growing weary of continual economic cuts.

Almost 10 million eligible voters will be electing a 300-member parliament, with the leftwing Syriza party currently tipped to win. Polls opened at 07.00 local time (05.00 GMT) and will close at 19.00 this evening, with the first exit polls expected immediately after voting ends.

Here's what you need to know about this pivotal election:

1. Why has a general election been called early?

In late December the Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, announced that the country would hold a general election 18 months early after the Greek parliament continually failed to elect a president.

After a third unsuccessful round of voting in which the lone presidential candidate, Stavros Dimas, failed to gain 180 votes in parliament, which would have given him the required majority to lead. In response, Samaras announced the snap election.

2. Who are the main contenders?

The election is between the ruling centre-right party, New Democracy, headed by incumbent PM Antonis Samaras, and the leftwing, anti-austerity party Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras.

New Democracy came to power in the June 2012 general election and, despite their belief that the Greek economy is recovering after six years of recession, Syriza has comfortably been topping pre-election polls.

3. Who are Syriza?

Syriza, which stands for the Coalition of the Radical Left, has come a long way since it was founded as an alliance in 2004 between disparate groups such as left-wing populist, green left and eurocommunist groups.

Led by the 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, it has been the official opposition party and second largest party in parliament since the June 2012 general election. In May 2014 the party came first in the European elections with 26 per cent of the vote, ahead of New Democracy by 3 percentage points.

It has run this election pledging to renegotiate the huge EU bailout and the €317bn (£240bn) it still owes, stating it will do this by challenging the EU, trying to get the organisation to forgive its remaining debts and write off austerity further austerity measures.

4. What will happen if Syriza get in?

No ones knows for sure, but it looks as though if they get in Syriza will try their level best to reverse austerity and try to get their debts forgiven.

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