Political paralysis looms as voters vent their fury in Greece


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The Independent Online

Voters have the chance to hit back at their politicians tomorrow after more than two years of financial crisis, international bailouts, a huge debt writedown and Europe's harshest austerity programme.

An electorate fuming at income cuts, tax hikes and rising unemployment are expected to abandon old political loyalties and give no party an outright majority in parliamentary elections. But this could leave Greece without a government at the time when it needs it the most – and jeopardise the programme of international bailouts the country depends on to secure its place in Europe.

If, as expected, neither of the main parties secure enough votes to form a government, building a new coalition could prove a Herculean task. The conservative New Democracy, for example, is threatening to force repeated elections until it wins a governing majority. The party's leader, Antonis Samaras, is leading in opinion polls but is facing a strong challenge from rightist splinter parties and a fascist party that have campaigned heavily on illegal immigration. He has vowed to intensify a programme to expel illegal immigrants, telling supporters that illegal immigrants had become "tyrants of Greek society".

The country has been governed by a coalition led by a caretaker Prime Minister, Lucas Papademos, since November 2011, when the Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou was forced out by his own MPs. During that time, Greece managed to secure the second bailout and debt relief deal.

Mr Papademos called the general election last month after pushing the cuts and reforms through parliament. But whoever wins in Athens must push through a new €14.5bn (£11.7bn) austerity package for 2013-14.