Europe News

Greek local elections with…. 40,000 candidates?

Nefeli Agkyridou, special to

Maria Gabriella Anagnostopoulos has never been involved in Greek politics before, but this Sunday – along with almost 40,000 others – she will stand as a candidate in the first round of Greek local elections.

"Until now… even local politics were very much attached to certain ruling parties and their ideologies," the 24-year-old told CNBC. "Now that I had the opportunity to be a candidate on an independent list, I went for it."

Sakis Mitrolidis | AFP | Getty Images

A change in the law, introduced last month, raised the number of candidates a party could have on its list by 50 percent. Fed up with the traditional political powers and a six-year recession, thousands of independents grabbed the opportunity to enter the political arena.

As a result, a record-high number of candidates – many of whom are under the age of 30 – are planning to challenge the Greek government.

"The political system is going through a crisis, so more and more young people understand there needs to be a change and decide to go into politics," Ioannis Marios Tsaltas, 27, told CNBC. He, too, is standing in the local elections, making the most of an opportunity to take things into his own hands.

European elections

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It's not just the local elections that have Greece's ruling center-right New Democracy party worried.

A record-high number of Greek MEP candidates will also be contesting in the European parliamentary elections, which take place - along with the second round of local elections - on May 25. Some 43 parties, among them the far-right Golden Dawn, have put up almost 1,300 candidates.

These double elections could threaten Greece's political stability, as parties consider them indicative of how people would vote in a general election. Greek stocks have had a rocky rise over recent days amid growing uncertainty about the upcoming elections.

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As it stands, left-wing opposition party SYRIZA looks to take first place in the European elections, although New Democracy is a very close second.

"If SYRIZA manages to get a percentage higher than that of the governing coalition, there will be a political earthquake," Dimitrios Papadimoulis, who is standing as a Member of European Parliament (MEP) for SYRIZA, told Greek newspaper Naftemporiki.

The difference between the two leading parties is now just 0.5 percent, according to the latest poll by Mega TV/GPO, after New Democracy got a boost from an improvement in Greece's economic data and the country's return to bond markets last month, after four years.

"Snap elections are possible, if the ruling coalition doesn't fare well now," Elena Panaritis, founder of the think tank Thought 4 Action, told CNBC. ""It will mean that the (government's austerity) program will be challenged."

Economy in focus

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Not for the first time, Greece's economy will be the focus of much campaigning over the following two weeks. On the euro zone's periphery, the country was hard hit by the global financial crash of 2008, was forced to request an international bailout and has since undergone tough spending cuts and reforms.

But according to the European Commission, Greece still faces a funding gap of 5.5 billion euros ($7.6 billion) through to the end of May next year. The country is hoping to agree on some form of debt relief from its European partners.

Amid all this – and as both elections loom - the IMF stressed that political stability would be key in its review of the country's progress.

"Greece's European partners and lenders have agreed to debt relief, provided that Greece keeps its commitments to implement previously agreed reforms," International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spokesman Gerry Rice said during a press conference last week.

"In the Greek programme, like other programmes, political stability is an important issue."