Greece votes for change

Greece votes for change

Socialists set for comeback

When’s my turn? A girl looks out of a polling booth as her father votes during Greece’s general election in Athens on Sunday. AFPHowever, The socialist PASOK is not certain of gathering an outright majority raising the risk of weeks in political limbo at a time when the Mediterranean country, seen as the euro zone’s weakest link, must deal with an economy on the verge of recession.

PASOK’s leader George Papandreou has promised a 3 billion euro ($4.36 billion) stimulus package on a platform of taxing the rich and helping the poor, a stark contrast with the outgoing prime minister’s call for two years of austerity.

“I am certain that together we can change Greece. We want it, we can do it and we will achieve it,” Papandreou said, smiling widely after casting his ballot in Athens.

Papandreou, 57, a US-born soft-spoken politician, and conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, 53, a powerful speaker who appeals to the average Greek, are the heirs to two of Greece’s most powerful political dynasties. They face off for the third time.
‘Majority frustrated’

Opinion polls show a majority of Greece’s nearly 10 million voters are frustrated that corruption continues to pervade every aspect of life and have not been convinced by Karamanlis’ call for bitter medicine to put the slowing economy back on track, including a public sector hiring freeze.

“I voted for PASOK because I was disappointed by the previous government, the only thing we got from them was indifference and apathy,” secretary Dimitra Seseri, 59, said after casting her vote in Athens.

Weakened by scandals and a fragile parliamentary majority, conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis called the snap poll in September, gambling he had a better chance of winning now than later in his four-year term. He has called Papandreou’s ideas unrealistic.

“Today, the Greeks ... decide for a safe way out of the crisis, they decide for policies that are difficult, but guarantee a dynamic jumpstart in the race for growth from 2011 onwards,” he said in the northern city of Thessaloniki.