Greece's interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos announced Wednesday that the country will go to polls on May 6 for electing a new parliament, paving the way for elections that may not produce a definite result under the current circumstances.
New Democracy and PASOK, the two major political parties backing the interim government led by Papademos, have seen drastic erosion in their support bases due to public dissatisfaction over the painful austerity measures being implemented in return for a new bailout package. They may not win enough votes to form a new coalition.
Opinion polls indicate that political parties that opposed the austerity measures could make substantial gains in the forthcoming general election, which is the first after Greece slipped into a debt crisis that triggered drastic spending cuts and other unpopular austerity measures.
Papademos announced the election date in a televised national address on Wednesday after he met his interim cabinet and officially requested President Karolos Papoulias to dissolve the Parliament for facilitating fresh elections.
"In less than a month, Greek citizens will go to polls in order to decide which path the country will follow," Papademos said while reminding his countrymen that "no one can pull the country out of crisis painlessly."
"Greece is in the middle of a difficult path. The choices we make will not only determine which government will be formed after the election but Greece's course in decades to come," the outgoing Prime Minister added.
Earlier, addressing the cabinet, Papademos said the new parliament that emerges from the snap polls will convene on May 17.
Addressing his his ministerial colleagues, Papademos said the government had shown in the past five months that "we can co-operate, combine viewpoints when necessary and put our differences aside, making decisions for the good of the country."
Papademos told his ministers that they had succeeded in achieving the two main goals set for the five-month administration, which he said were securing a new bailout for the debt-stricken country and "avert the risk of immediate bankruptcy." He said the focus of the next government should be to implement the necessary changes demanded by the bailout package.
Papademos became the interim Prime Minister in November, following the resignation of his predecessor George Papandreou. His government was entrusted with the responsibility of securing an EUR 130 billion bailout and implementing its terms as well as tackling the country's mounting debt crisis until a new government comes into office after fresh elections.
Although the Papademos government managed to secure the EUR 130 billion euro bailout from the troika of creditors, namely the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, Greece was forced to agree to the strict austerity measures demanded by the creditors in return.
The new EUR 130 billion bailout, the second of its kind for Greece, was vital for the debt-stricken country to avoid defaulting on its debt on March 20, when it had to repay EUR 14.5 billion bond. Greece, which has an estimated debt of EUR 350 billion, availed a joint EU-IMF 110-billion-euro rescue loan in May 2010, of which several tranches have been handed out to Athens. Greece's debt to GDP ratio currently stands at around 160 percent of GDP, the highest in euro area.
by RTT Staff Writer
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