On 6th May, Greeks went to the polls to vote in parliamentary elections, which had been brought forward from October 2013 after the government collapsed in November. The result sent the country, and the rest of Europe, into turmoil. No party gained more than 20% of the vote, and no coalition could be formed, forcing a second set of elections to be scheduled for 17th June. Greece’s two major parties, the centre-right New Democracy and the left-wing Pasok, saw a large drop in support, while votes increased for more radical parties. The most significant of these is the left-wing Syriza, who came second in the election with 17% of the vote.
Syriza are an anti-austerity party who have promised to reject the austerity deal that Greece made with the EU and the IMF. Their success meant that for the first time, Greece leaving the Euro began to be discussed as a serious prospect. If they win in June, and reject the bailout deal, then a return to the drachma may be the only option. Therefore this second set of elections are being seen as being not only to elect a Greek government, but also as an unofficial referendum on the Euro.
The uncertainty surrounding Greece has led to jitters on the financial markets, as although the EU have put a €700bn firewall in place to cover a possible Greek exit, there are still fears that their departure would increase pressure on other, bigger, struggling Eurozone economies, such as Italy and Spain, and lead to them requiring a bailout. This would not only hit the Eurozone, but has the potential to hugely impact the global economy.
Although it is likely that once again no party will win outright on 17th June, recent polls show the pro-austerity parties gaining, and so may find themselves in a position to form a coalition government. But there are still two weeks to go, and a lot can happen in that time. Only one thing is certain : on 17th June, the whole world will be watching Greece.