Article published on the 2009-10-04 Latest update 2009-10-06 07:59 TU
George Papandreou (L) and Costas Karamanlis (R) cast their ballots, 4 October 2009
(Photos: Reuters / Layout: RFI)
"I am certain that together we will change Greece," said George Papandreou, head of the socialist Pasok party, to supporters after casting his vote in Athens. "We want to do it, we can do it, and we will achieve it.”
Current Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis also expressed confidence in a win for the New Democracy party, despite opinion polls putting the socialists between five and seven points ahead.
"I have complete confidence in citizens' maturity," he said, after voting in Thessaloniki.
Correspondent Helena Smith says that Western diplomats are hoping that Papandreo will win.
“Western diplomats here in Athens are delighted at the prospect of George Papandreo voted into office,” she said. “He’s very open minded, he is the man who almost single-handedly masterminded reconciliation with Turkey back in the 1990s. He believes in consensus politics, and he’s extremely progressive.”
Papandreou's party is benefiting from the unpopularity of the current government.
“The outgoing conservative government has been afflicted by alarming levels of corruption,” explained Smith. “There are high security concerns here in Greece following the eruption of riots last December, and brewing social discontent. It is felt that this government simply does not have any more life in it.”
The economy has dominated the campaign. Greece is on the verge of recession, and it is under EU supervision for an excessive budget deficit. The public debt exceeded gross domestic product this year.
Both candidates promised solutions, with Karamanlis proposing a two-year austerity policy coupled and a crackdown on tax evasion, and Papandreou, suggesting salary and pension raises.
While Pasok is in a good position to win, voters may be lured away by the Green party, which was propelled into the public eye this summer during the fires that ravaged Athens suburbs.
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