Greeks vote as leftist Syriza days in power seem numbered

A resident of Makrynitsa offers a Greek National flag to Greece's opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis (C) during his visit in the central Greek village, on July 2, 2019, during his pre-election campaign five days ahead of the general elections. (AFP/Aris Messinis)
Updated 07 July 2019

Greeks vote as leftist Syriza days in power seem numbered

  • Incumbent Alexis Tsipras of the Syriza party is on one side — a 44-year-old radical leftist who stormed to power in 2015
  • On the other side of the fence is Kyriakos Mitsotakis, 51, of New Democracy

ATHENS: Greeks began voting on Sunday in a snap election that opinon polls say will bring opposition conservatives to power, ending four years of leftist rule blamed for saddling the country with more debt and mismanaging crises.
The election is largely a showdown of two contenders. Incumbent Alexis Tsipras of the Syriza party is on one side — a 44-year-old radical leftist who stormed to power in 2015 vowing to tear up the austerity rule book only to relent weeks later.
On the other side of the fence is Kyriakos Mitsotakis, 51, of New Democracy. He is from a famous political dynasty — he hopes to follow the footsteps of his father as prime minister, while a sister of his was foreign minister.
Opinion polls put New Democracy’s lead at up to 10 percentage points, potentially giving it an absolute majority in the country’s 300-seat parliament. Voting starts at 7.00 am (0400 GMT) and ends at 7.00 pm, with first official projections expected about two hours after voting ends.
Greece endured a debilitating financial crisis from 2010 which saw the country needing a cash lifeline from its European Union partners three times.
The economy is the public’s main concern, said Thomas Gerakis of pollsters MARC.
“Voters want to know the government can give Greeks a better tomorrow,” he said. Some voters wanted to punish Syriza for reneging on past pledges, he added.
Tsipras was also roundly criticized for mismanagement of crises on his watch, and for brokering a deeply unpopular deal to end a dispute over the name of neighouring North Macedonia.
One hundred people died in a devastating fire which swept through a seaside village east of Athens last year; while Mitsotakis was quick to the scene to console survivors, Tsipras was out of the public eye for several days.
Greece wrapped up its last economic adjustment program in 2018, but remains under surveillance from lenders to ensure no future fiscal slippage. Though economic growth has returned to the country, unemployment is the euro zone’s highest at 18 percent.
New Democracy has promised to invest in creating well-paid jobs with decent benefits. The outgoing government meanwhile hopes voters will reward it for upping the minimum wage by 11 percent and reinstating collective bargaining.
Mitsotakis hopes that his reforms will convince lenders to show more flexibility in due course.
“The first thing that is necessary for economic growth to be boosted is a stable government, a strong majority in the next parliament,” Mitsotakis told Reuters.
Tsipras says that a vote cast in favor of Mitsotakis would go to the political establishment which forced Greece to the edge of the precipice in the first place.
“Each and every one of you must now consider if, after so many sacrifices, we should return to the days of despair,” he told voters, wrapping up the pre-election campaign on Friday.


Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan targeted by new rape complaint

Updated 27 min ago

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan targeted by new rape complaint

  • A woman in her 50s accused Ramadan of raping her along with a member of his staff
  • He has been charged in France with raping two women previously

PARIS: Tariq Ramadan, a leading Islamic scholar charged in France with raping two women, has also been accused of taking part in the gang rape of a journalist, French judicial sources said Sunday.
The sources confirmed reports on Europe 1 radio and in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper that a woman in her 50s had accused Ramadan, 56, of raping her along with a member of his staff when she went to interview the academic at a hotel in Lyon in May 2014.
The woman, who filed a criminal complaint in May 2019, also accused Ramadan of issuing “threats or acts of intimidation” aimed at dissuading her from reporting the alleged attack to the police, the judicial sources added.
Ramadan, a married father of four whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement in late 2017.
He has denied charges he raped a disabled woman in 2009 and a feminist activist in 2012.
He was taken into custody in February 2018 and held for nine months before being granted bail.
Authorities in Switzerland are also investigating him after receiving a rape complaint in that country.
His lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, refused to comment Sunday on the latest allegations against him in France.
The woman behind the latest complaint told police that Ramadan and a male assistant repeatedly raped her in Ramadan’s room at the Sofitel hotel in Lyon.
She described the alleged attack as being of “untold violence” and claimed that when she threatened to report them to the police Ramadan replied: “You don’t know how powerful I am.”
She also claimed that Ramadan had contacted her via the Messenger app in January, two months after his release from jail, saying that he wanted to make her an “offer” of a “professional nature,” without giving details.