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Austerity battered Greeks vote today

Published:Sunday | January 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM


The winds of political change are coursing through austerity-weary Greece, but a financial whirlwind may lurk round the corner.

Opinion polls ahead of today's closely-watched national election agree: The radical left opposition Syriza party, which has vowed to rewrite the terms of Greece's international bailout, is poised to defeat Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' conservatives. To govern, in a historic first for the Greek left, it may need the backing of a smaller party, but most seem willing to oblige.

"I want this government to go. It has disappointed me," said Babis Limnaios, 41, an Athens electrician who last voted in 2004 for the conservatives but will now back Syriza. "I want them to change everything - tax, health care, education."

Debt forgiveness

Communist-rooted Syriza has alarmed markets and investors with its talk of massive debt forgiveness and riding roughshod over the bailout deals. But the mood is less fraught than in the last national election in 2012 when many saw a Syriza victory as a precursor to a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone, the 19 nations that now share the euro currency.

For one, Greece's European partners are less exposed to fallout from a Greek financial collapse. The Eurozone has a bailout fund and the European Central Bank has committed to buy the bonds of troubled countries, if needed. And despite erratic bombshells from some Syrizan officials, one candidate suggested printing euros if push comes to shove, the party is straining to play up its mainstream, Eurocentric aspects.