“The politicians have just taken our money,” said one gate attendant, throwing her hands in the air. “I’ll decide tomorrow.”
Greeks will cast their lot Sunday in a parliamentary election that could determine the country’s future in the euro zone — and potentially the future of the euro zone itself. Now including 17 nations, the European Monetary Union is one of the continent’s main modern-day political projects. There is no precedent or procedure for a country leaving, and the predictions about what might occur in the aftermath range from global financial meltdown to a mild bump on the road to recovery.
The two leading candidates, Antonis Samaras and Tsipras, have told voters that they will keep Greece within the euro. But Tsipras has drawn a hard line regarding the terms of an international bailout needed to keep Greece afloat, raising the risk of a collapse in relations with the country’s lenders and possibly an exit from the currency union.
Samaras, head of the center-right New Democracy party, has struck a more moderate tone, saying he will bargain to slow the budget cuts demanded in return for International Monetary Fund and European help, but pledging to keep the key parts of the bailout program intact and keep Greece in good standing with its creditors.
“It is a scary situation,” said Dmitrios Tsomocos, a New Democracy candidate and economic adviser to Samaras. “We don’t want more money. We don’t want leniency. We want to meet the targets [of the bailout], but we need a chance to do so.”
Sunday’s election is the latest turning point in a more than two-year drama over Greece’s slide into insolvency, an economic low point it has reached after a multiyear recession and a crippling level of government debt. The country has produced Europe’s first-ever sovereign default, gotten private lenders to shoulder more than $100 billion in losses on Greek government bonds, absorbed massive emergency loans from the IMF and other European countries — and is still far behind in financial stability.
Investors and public officials worldwide worry Sunday’s vote may lead to a breaking point between Greece and a world that is, as one investor here put it, “fed up.”
World central banks have been girding for the possible aftershocks of victory by Tsipras and other members of his Syriza coalition, a consortium of left-wing political parties that surprised the world by finishing second, behind New Democracy, in an indecisive parliamentary vote last month. Group of 20 officials meeting in Mexico will also be monitoring the outcome to see if they need to respond with efforts to prop up the world economy.