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Govt fears austerity backlash as Greeks head to polls

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-07

Greek polling stations opened around the country Sunday, allowing the population to decide whether or not they support the stringent economic reforms introduced by the government earlier this year. Preliminary results are expected later Sunday.

AP - Greeks began voting Sunday in municipal polls seen as a crucial test of support for austerity measures in the crisis-hit country.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has promised to call an early election if his Socialist government loses public backing for harsh fiscal reforms required for Greece to receive €110 billion in bailout loans from the EU and IMF.
 
Polls opened Sunday at 7 a.m. (05:00GMT) and close at 7 p.m. (17:00GMT), with 9.8 million eligible voters. Early returns are expected after 9:30 p.m. (19:30GMT).
 
The Socialists and main opposition conservatives are roughly split in races for 13 regional governors, according to polls.
 
Opposition parties all campaigned against the terms of the bailout loans, adding pressure on Papandreou who has faced months of strikes and disruptive protests as a deepening recession caused a surge in unemployment and small business failures.
 
“There shouldn’t be elections again, I think,” said Sofia Panagiotopoulou, an 86-year-old voter in Athens. “We are at the edge of the cliff and we will vote for the status quo so that we can have peace of mind.”
 
Papandreou’s election gamble helped send market borrowing costs sharply higher.
 
EU and IMF officials are due back in Athens this month for a fiscal inspection as Greece will again revise its 2009 budget deficit to 15 percent of gross domestic product - or even higher - from the current projection of 13.6 percent.
 
Sunday’s election is the first since far-reaching reforms in Greek local government reduced the number of administrative regions from 54 to 13 and municipalities from 1,014 to 325.
 
Runoffs for local races will be held on Nov. 14.

Date created : 2010-11-07

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