Greece is back on top of the international economic and political agenda after a brief respite, as the country is forced to call a repeat election on June 17. This latest election follows a May 6 vote that left parliament divided evenly between groups of parties that support and oppose austerity conditions attached to a 130 billion euro ($163 billion) rescue agreed to in March.
The latest opinion polls in Greece suggest anti-bailout leftist party Syriza has taken the lead ahead of a vote that is widely viewed as a referendum on the country's membership of the euro. In the latest Public Issue poll presented on Athens-based Skai TV, Syriza have 30 percent of the vote, compared to pro-bailout conservative party New Democracy, which currently holds 26 percent.
The Syriza party is very much anti-bailout and even though it says it wants the country to remain in the single currency, many fear Syriza would push Greece further toward a euro zone exit. However, over 80 percent of the Greek population is in favor of keeping the euro. Click ahead for a guide to the key players in the coming election and Greek political crisis.
By Bianca Schlotterbeck
Posted 25 May 2012
Percentage of vote in May: 19%
Number of seats gained in May: 108
Antonis Samaras, 61, is a Greek economist and politician who has been the leader of New Democracy, Greece's major conservative party, since 2009. New Democracy finished first in last week's election, but could not find a third partner to join them and the Pasok party to form a majority in parliament. Recent opinion polls predict New Democracy will come in second after the Syriza party in the June 17th election.
Percentage of vote gained in May: 17 %
Number of seats gained in May: 52
The head of the Radical Coalition of the Left (Syriza) is Alexis Tsipras, 37, the country's youngest political leader. Syriza has become Greece's second-largest party following its dramatic success in the parliamentary election on May 6. It campaigned against the recovery blueprint for Greece drawn up by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
Tsipras — nicknamed Sexy Alexi by the Greek press — has promised to freeze payments to creditors and renegotiate measures included in Greece's latest rescue package. However if Greece renounces the bailout, EU leaders say they will pull the plug on funding, leading to rapid bankruptcy and an exit from the single currency.
In the latest opinion poll Alexis Tsipras was the public’s first choice when they were asked who was best suited to become prime minister, with 24 percent versus 19 percent who preferred New Democracy chief Antonis Samaras.
Percentage of the vote in May: 13%
Number of seats gained in May: 41
Evangelos Venizelos, 55, is the leader of the Pasok socialist party. As minister of finance in the outgoing socialist-conservative coalition, he is closely identified with the bailouts and austerity programs that many voters have rejected. The Pasok party finished a humiliating third in the recent general election, a shadow of its former self.
Percentage of vote gained in May: 10 %
Number of seats gained in May: 33
Founded by ousted New Democracy MP Panos Kammenos two months ago, this right-wing party attracted 10 percent of the vote at its first shot at election. Kammenos, who had been a popular, bombastic backbencher, was pushed out of ND in November after refusing to back the coalition. He has argued that Greece should look for another bailout from Russia rather than the EU.
Percentage of vote in May: 8%
Number of seats gained in May: 26
Greece’s oldest party, led by Aleka Papariga, played a key part in recent anti-austerity protests in Athens. The Greek Communist Party has been consistent in its stance in favor of Greece exiting the European Monetary Union, believing Greece should abolish the memorandum agreement and refuse to recognize the country’s debt towards its international lenders, the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank.
Percentage of vote gained in May: 7%
Number of seats gained in May: 21
Nikos Michaloliakos is the leader of the extreme right-wing party, whose name translates as Golden Dawn. It has often attracted controversy, with two high profile murderers linked to the group, and the alleged use of the Nazi salute at an Athens Municipal Council meeting. Golden Dawn won 7 percent of the votes in the elections on a tide of anti-immigration sentiment after it campaigned using the slogan "let's rid this country of the stench."
Nikos Michaloliakos was among the party chiefs who held meetings with the Greek president, Karolos Papoulias, as attempts were made to form a coalition in order to avert new elections.
Recent polls have shown falling support for Golden Dawn ahead of the new round of elections on 17 June, so it remains uncertain if the party will retain its seats.
(Moderate left, anti-austerity)
Percentage of vote gained in May: 6%
Number of seats gained in May: 19
The leader of the moderate Democratic Left party, Fotis Kouvelis, 63, says it will not join pro-bailout parties in a coalition without the more radical far-left Syriza. Without Syriza, he says, "no unity government can emerge." A founding member of the Greek Communist Party and later a founding member of the Greek Left party, Mr Kouvelis was justice minister for a short spell in 1989.