GREECE

Socialists oust conservatives in snap election

Greek Socialist leader George Papandreou on Sunday pledged to "turn a page" on the economic malaise of the previous administration after his victory in snap elections that ousted the scandal-ridden conservative government.

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Greek Socialist leader George Papandreou emerged victorious in Sunday's snap election after his socialist Pasok party won 43.94% of the vote according to results from 99% of polling stations.


It was a crushing defeat for his conservative opponent, outgoing Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. This could spell at least a momentary paralysis for the party.


Papandreou, whose father and grandfather were both prime ministers, pledged to "turn a page" on the scandals and economic malaise associated with the outgoing conservative government. "Today we start together the great national effort of placing the country back on a course of revival, development and creation."


The deciding factor for most voters was the economy – Greece has the weakest economy in the eurozone, with a public debt that is 100.4% of its gross domestic product this year. The European Union placed the country under supervision in April over its excessive budget deficit. Its output growth is now at near zero. It has not yet officially entered recession, but it is widely expected to by the end of this year.

 

 

Ondine Smulders, Athens correspondent for FRANCE24 and The Economist, explained the parties’ divergent stances: “Conservatives campaigned [by pledging] two years of fiscal austerity. Papandreou, however, promised to go out and spend to get the economy growing again.”

 

One of Papandreou’s pledges is to introduce a billion-euro stimulus package into his nation’s economy. Smulders said, “He is looking at stimulating demand, raising pension and public sector salaries, unemployment, and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. These reforms will entail some very difficult decisions. It’s not clear at all that Pasok has the stomach to push through these reforms.”

 

Papandreou, a former foreign minister took a page from US President Barack Obama and revealed an ambitious plan for what he planned to achieve in his first 100 days in office. His task lists includes bringing about transparency in public finances by improving the computerising of the financial records of government agencies.


Karamanlis: A loser, but not a sore one

 

"The only responsible and honest course of action for me is one: I assume responsibility for the result and will launch procedures for the election of a new party leader," an emotional Karamanlis said in a televised address.

 

Since the beginning of his term in 2004 a string of scandals, involving pension funds and illegal construction sites, have led to the resignation of four ministers and half a dozen conservative party officials.

"It is self-evident that I will not be a candidate,” he said.

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