Greece went to the polls on Sunday in a general election unlikely to produce a clear winner, with a second vote expected by July if the country’s fractious political parties fail to agree to a coalition.
While opinion polls have placed the ruling conservative New Democracy party ahead, a change to the country’s electoral system means it is likely to fall short of an absolute majority.
New Democracy, headed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is polling between 31-38%, followed by opposition leftist Syriza, trailing by 4-7 points. Pollsters say a party would need more than 45 percent to win outright.
Voting ends at 1600 GMT.
A cost of living crisis has taken centre stage in the campaign, with parties trying to woo voters with pledges to increase the minimum wage and create jobs. Spiralling prices have had a profound impact on Greeks, whose living standards plunged during a decade-long debt crisis.
“We are business owners, we want (the winner) to help us with our business, with our financial situation, so we can survive,” said shopkeeper Vicky, 69, after casting her vote.
After Greece almost crashed out of the euro at the peak of its debt crisis in 2015, Mitsotakis, elected in 2019, has portrayed himself as a safe pair of hands in his campaign to win the votes of just under 10 million Greeks.
“Today we vote for the future,” Mitsotakis said after voting. “Today the country’s government responsibility has been passed on to you, the people, but I’m certain that tomorrow an even better day will dawn for our country.”
His administration, however, took the brunt of public outrage over a Feb. 28 rail crash killing 57 people, and a wiretapping scandal targeting politicians.
Another voter, Theodosius, 54, said: “In areas such as democracy, freedom, everyday life, dignity, working conditions, we are going backwards very quickly, we have to try and do something.”
Should no party win outright, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou will give the top three parties a three-day mandate each to form an administration.
“Greeks hold in their hands the ability to do the will of the majority for the country to change course…. to open the way for a progressive coalition government,” said Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras.
If they all fail, Sakellaropoulou will appoint a caretaker government to prepare new elections roughly a month later.
“Today’s result is a referendum either for political stability, or the preamble of a rudderless government, the daily Proto Thema said in a front-page editorial.