Austerity-weary Greece Faces Electoral Impasse
ATHENS, Greece (AP) â¿¿ After more than two years of financial crisis, international bailouts, a huge debt writedown and Europe's harshest austerity program, Greek voters have been given a chance to hit back at the parties that got them into this mess.
This Sunday, an electorate fuming at repeated income cuts, tax hikes and rapidly rising unemployment is to vote in parliamentary elections. It's expected to abandon old political loyalties and give no party an outright majority. But this could well leave Greece without a government at the time when it needs it the most â¿¿ and jeopardize the program of international bailouts the country depends on to secure its place in Europe.
After years of profligate government spending and dismal fiscal stewardship, in 2010 Greece was priced out of the international markets from which governments borrow. To keep the country afloat, it took two separate rescue loan agreements with its European partners and the International Monetary Fund worth more than â¿¬240 billion ($317 billion), and the biggest debt writedown in history that wiped more than â¿¬100 billion ($132 billion) off private investors' holdings.To secure the bailouts, the Greek government had little choice but to agree to a harsh round of austerity measures that cut everything from wages to pensions and healthcare. It also had to promise to dismantle the protected trades that choked up the economy. Blame for the problems that led to the rescue has been placed firmly with the two main political parties that governed Greece over the past four decades â¿¿ conservative New Democracy and Socialist PASOK â¿¿ both of whom have been accused of uncontrolled overspending, cronyism and lack of accountability. Since November 2011, when Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou was forced out by his own lawmakers, the country has been governed by a coalition government led by caretaker Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. During that time, Greece managed to secure the second bailout and debt relief deal.
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