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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Letters: Media plurality must be addressed

Category : Business

David Puttnam makes an important link between the concept of “a duty of care” and the media and democracy (A win for democracy, 23 March). I, like him, hope that the issue of effective press regulation, independent from newspaper owners and politicians, will soon be settled. That will be a positive outcome from the Leveson report. But the report made no recommendations on one remit of the original inquiry, which was to recommend ways to enhance media plurality.

The present level of media concentration is one of the reasons the phone-hacking scandal erupted because the politicians were scared of News International and, as the evidence around phone hacking and Leveson revealed, News International was scared of nobody.

Puttnam points out that News Corporation’s ambition for full control of BSkyB has not been squashed. BSkyB’s market dominance and revenue continue to grow and it is now the second largest supplier of broadband in the UK.

At the European level the “duty of care” for the media is also problematic. One has only to consider the way a discredited Italian politician was able to use his wealth and media dominance to come a close second in the February general election. In Hungary the right-wing nationalist party Fidesz exerts increasing control over the media.

Last Thursday saw the UK launch in the House of Lords of a citizens’ initiative on media pluralism aimed at addressing these issues. It is an ambitious project involving, so far, more than 100 organisations across nine member states including the UK, Italy and Hungary (details at
Granville Williams
UK co-ordinator, European Initiative for Media Pluralism

• David Puttnam is wrong to declare that careful thought on “the notion of ‘a duty of care’ – as it relates to a number of aspects of civil society” – is a recent development. This notion has been a central feature of negligence law since the 19th century and has been gaining prominence in the law of defamation for decades: eg in the negligence-based defences of unintentional defamation and innocent dissemination, and, more recently, in judicial guidelines on responsible journalistic practice. In his assumption that we can move from particular duties of care (eg those borne by journalists conducting an investigation) to the duty to foster and maintain “a healthy democracy”, Puttnam reveals a utopian belief that politicians can usher such a democracy into existence through the deployment of royal charters and other such makeshift devices.
Professor Richard Mullender
Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle

• The problem with press freedom is that it is considered important because politicians and capitalist oligarchs are too often accountable only to the press. In a democratic society, accountability and redress of the misuse of power would be exercised in many different forms, and accountability to the press and the media would be only one of

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Canada Supports Electoral Observation Mission in Honduras

Category : Stocks

OTTAWA, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Nov. 18, 2012) – Today, the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, and the Honourable Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), announced Canada’s support to the Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observation mission in Honduras.

“Through the Canadian International Development Agency, Canada is providing support to electoral observation missions in the Americas,” said Minister Fantino. “Canada supports the promotion of democracy and the strengthening of democratic institutions in Honduras.”

Read more from the original source: Canada Supports Electoral Observation Mission in Honduras

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Greece shocked at EU peace prize amid economic ‘war’

Category : Business

Greek people stunned at awarding of Nobel to institution they blame for austerity measure tearing apart their society

There are prizes and prizes. And on Friday night there was no doubt in the minds of most Greeks that the biggest of them all, the Nobel peace prize, had gone to the wrong recipient.

In the country on the frontline of the worst crisis to hit the continent since the second world war, news that the EU had been given the award for its efforts to promote peace and democracy was greeted with bewilderment and disbelief. Three days after tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Athens over a visit by Angela Merkel – some dressed in Nazi regalia — many wondered whether the decision was a joke. Or even a Norwegian ruse to get the increasingly divided, debt-choked nation to bow to Germany’s demands for austerity. In the mind of the man who speaks for Syriza, the leftist party that might be a footnote if it were not also Greece’s main opposition, the decision had “cheapened” and “harmed” the institution that is the Nobel peace prize.

“I just cannot understand what the reasoning would be behind it,” said Panos Skourletis, the party’s spokesman. “In many parts of Europe, but especially in Greece, we are experiencing what really is a war situation on a daily basis, albeit a war that has not been formally declared. There is nothing peaceful about it.”

Almost three years into the debt crisis that began beneath the Acropolis there is no doubt in the minds of many that Greece is at war – an economic war whose byproducts of poverty and hate, anger and desperation have begun inexorably to tear its society apart. And for the great majority the EU – with Germany at the helm – is solely to blame.

“It’s a new kind of war, one without weapons but just as deadly,” said Takis Kapeoldasis, a tattoo artist, giving voice to the mood at large. “I don’t want to be insulting but it’s Europe’s policies that have done us over and now it gets the prize of all prizes for peace and reconciliation.

“Those who made this choice should come and walk our streets now while there is peace and harmony because soon it’s going to be too late.” For young Greeks like Karmela Kontou, who belong to the generation hardest hit by the country’s descent into economic and social meltdown, the idea that the EU had been rewarded for its “successful struggle” to reinforce democracy and human rights was especially galling. After all, she said, “more and more Greeks are killing themselves” precisely because they see no light at the end of the tunnel.

Even worse was the democratic deficit. Growing numbers of Greeks feel they have no democratic say over any of the policies that have changed their lives. Greece may be paying for years of profligacy but the coffins of those who could no longer take the pain of being unable to pay extra bills and higher taxes on wages that had also decreased sharply were also lining up.

“The mood is not just dark, it’s hopeless. People are killing themselves, the suicide rate is soaring, because they just can’t cope and the EU is definitely partly to blame,” said a 25-year-old. “I don’t know, maybe they are trying to support a project that is going down the tubes because the very least anyone can say is that the decision is really strange”

Petros Markaris, the country’s pre-eminent crime writer and a regular commentator on European affairs, thought it was “very wrong” that the EU should be garlanded with a peace prize. The bloc may have been born from the ashes of the devastation of the greatest conflagration on the continent but while it had brought nations together in peace, it had rarely done anything, actively, to promote the concept, he said.

“On the basis of that logic, every country that has lived peacefully deserves the prize,” he told the Guardian, adding it was clear the award had become a “prize with an agenda”.

The faultlines that had surfaced in Greece as a result of Europe’s handling of the crisis and obstinate obsession with austerity were “deeply worrying”.

“I don’t personally agree that we should bandy the word ‘war’ around so freely in a country that has been so harmed by [the 1946-49] civil conflict,” he said. “But I do believe that the way the economic crisis is being confronted outside Greece by the EU and European central bank and, by our own politicians, is leading the country to catastrophe.” With speculation growing that Greece is heading for implosion under EU-IMF pressure – the over-arching reaction to the peace prize announcement was that it was ridiculous. Ioanna Nikolareizi, an Athenian photographer, said: “It’s absurd. This is a prize that should go to a human being, not an institution that is going down the drain.”

This mining in the Moors row exposes a deeper environmental offensive | Richard Seymour

Category : Business

The coalition’s encouragement of developers such as York Potash forms part of a neoliberal assault on the environment

I recently took a trip through the Moors, en route to Whitby. The train from Middlesbrough meandered through miles of lavish Yorkshire countryside, stopping at tiny hamlets like Castleton Moor, and Ruswarp.

It was positively barbaric. Yes, the cottages are beautiful, but try getting a signal on your mobile. And if you do get a signal, try ordering a delivery from Ocado. This isn’t entirely metropolitan snobbery. Whitby, a grand seaside town, is also the only town I’ve visited where “golliwogs” can still be won in arcade games.

Now they want to dig up this achingly lush landscape for some potash, a fertiliser ingredient. Imagine my sorrow. Sarcasm aside, the 11 local organisations now opposing this development have a real grievance. This will be one of the biggest mines of its kind in the world, and will despoil 4.5 hectares of the 100 hectares of forestry already owned by York Potash, a subsidiary of the mineral mining company Sirius. The landscape is not only of aesthetic value, but also provides carbon storage, biodiversity and forms a natural flood defence, all of which are difficult to put a cash value on.

Sirius promises that any negative effects will be outweighed by the creation of 1,000 new jobs. This is always the fastest route to the moral high ground for mining and development capital. Thus, some of the opposition from environmental campaigners hinges on the prospective damage to the economy, particularly tourism. But this merely highlights the false nature of the dilemma – growth versus sustainability– posed by mining interests.

The real underlying issue in this, as in most controversies related to the exploitation of natural resources, is democracy. As George Monbiot has argued: “The first prerequisite for protecting the environment is a functioning democracy.” Whether it is in Brazil, India, Canada, or Britain, the struggles that take place are invariably over who gets the final say in what is done with the planet’s wealth.

Take, for example, the Rio Tinto potash mine in Mendoza, Argentina, which was approved last month. Opposition centred on potential environmental damage and the creation of salt waste deposits that would pollute the drinking water. Rio Tinto was not trusted by locals to keep the area safe and clean. In addition, the opposition felt that they should have a say in how the country’s resources were exploited. This environmentalism of the poor is sometimes erroneously called “resource nationalism”: it is just a matter of democracy.

On the face of it, mining in the Moors is a different proposition. The major objection is that it’s taking place in a national park, conserved for the benefit of the public: a blot on a beautiful landscape. Surely the opposition is conservative and romantic? But taken as part of the government’s wider strategy for development we can see that similar issues are at stake.

This government is engaged in a hasty retreat from environmental commitments regarding regional development. The potash development follows the abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies inherited from the last government that, while foregrounding industrial development, included targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases and the development of sustainable industry.

Furthermore, the government is intent on handing more leverage to business in how development takes place. Regional development agencies funded by central government were disbanded in this government’s Public Bodies Bill as part of a wider offensive against the public sector. The bill also included a plan to sell off the national forests to private developers, a controversial proposal abandoned at the last minute. These agencies have been replaced by local enterprise partnerships, which are not funded by central government but involve voluntary relationships between local governments and businesses.

As a result, local authorities wishing to generate income and encourage development must subordinate everything to creating a convivial environment for investors. The York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership naturally makes the potash extraction industry a central component of its growth strategy. You can hardly blame them – there aren’t many other opportunities coming in areas, particularly Scarborough and Whitby, hit hard by spending cuts.

So, here is the problem. Two major developments of neoliberalism obstruct environmental justice. First, neoliberal reform has been hollowing out what little democracy parliament affords us, the shift from quangos to voluntary coalitions between government and capital merely confirming popular exclusion from decision-making. Second, when the economy provides few investment opportunities, neoliberalism offers “accumulation by dispossession”; turning over previously public goods, whether hospitals or park land, to private profit. This can always be presented as “creating jobs”.

The only answer to this is to assert popular sovereignty over the environment. On that account alone, it would be a step forward if Yorkshire residents stopped the potash mine.

BREAKING NEWS! Speaker Approves Al Quds Demonstration at Queen’s Park; Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Says Hate Rally Harms Canadian Values

Category : World News

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Aug. 16, 2012) - Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) is profoundly concerned that Queen’s Park is helping undermine Canadian values of tolerance and democracy by permitting a hate rally to take place on the grounds of the provincial legislature.

Original post: BREAKING NEWS! Speaker Approves Al Quds Demonstration at Queen’s Park; Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Says Hate Rally Harms Canadian Values

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Local Government Ombudsman: we are taking steps to change

Category : Business

Responding to criticism from Simon Danczuk MP, the chair of the councils watchdog says it is opening itself up to public scrutiny

The job of the local government ombudsman is to provide an independent means of redress to individuals for injustice caused by unfair treatment or a failure of duty by local authorities and care providers.

Many of the complainants who seek help from us are vulnerable individuals whose voice would otherwise go unheard.

As chair of the ombudsman, I am proud of the work undertaken by our skilled and experienced employees; last year alone we were contacted for advice by nearly 100,000 individuals, registered more than 20,000 complaints and made 11,000 decisions.

More than a quarter of these decisions identified significant injustice and achieved redress. Restorative justice is our focus and we have achieved this for thousands of citizens across the country.

But I am acutely aware that as a vital frontline public service we must continually strive to improve our performance and adapt and evolve as an organisation. I welcome the report from the Communities and Local Government Committee for underlining the need for us to be ready and willing to be held to account for the quality of our work.

The ombudsman has already embarked on a bold transformation to improve the service and ensure it remains relevant and resilient in times of austerity.

I have set out four objectives: provide a complaints service direct to the public which is accessible, responsive, consistent and objective; ensure sound decisions and appropriate redress based on impartial, rigorous and proportionate investigations; use our knowledge of complaints to identify best practice, promoting good public administration and influencing public policy; and finally, proper stewardship of public funds.

Resolving complaints as quickly as possible is critical for our success, and for the satisfaction of our customers. Currently almost half of cases are decided within 13 weeks and 77% within 28 weeks. No case – however complex – should take longer than 52 weeks to close and I am committed to setting and meeting more challenging deadlines and publishing our performance against these time targets.

Openness, transparency and accountability must be central to everything the ombudsman does. During the first quarter of next year we will publish a summary statement online of every decision we make. This will mean that all of our decision making is open to scrutiny. It will also enable citizens to make informed choices – on care providers, for example – and provide useful feedback to local councils and MPs.

Councils and citizens expect us to work openly; we will make sure we understand their perspective and that they help to shape our services.

I believe we are now taking the necessary steps to transform the Local Government Ombudsman into an organisation which is well respected for meeting the needs and the expectations of the public.

Jane Martin is chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England and the Local Government Ombudsman

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Japan’s accountability crisis

Category : World News

A defining feature of democracy is that it has been the best form of government for ensuring accountable rule. One important element that distinguishes it from authoritarian regimes is that there are certain institutions, checks, procedures and laws that allow the general public to hold their leaders to account. The system is far from perfect, but in theory (and generally in practice) no one is above the law. And the ballot box has proven to be a relatively successful mechanism for making sure politicians do not overstay their welcome.
One of the great virtues of democracy is that it avoids the kind of scenarios which appear when authoritarian regimes fall, as was witnessed when former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi was finally held to account at the point of a bayonet.

Excerpt from: Japan’s accountability crisis

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Greek election: scramble to form coalition to steer country through crisis

Category : Business

New Democracy leader begins quest to create government while leftist leader declares he will continue to oppose austerity

Emerging as the frontrunner of a nailbiting election seen as decisive for Greece’s future in the eurozone, the conservative New Democracy leader, Antonis Samaras, began the arduous quest to build a coalition on Sunday night with an appeal to form a government of “national salvation”.

New Democracy narrowly beat Syriza, an alliance of radical leftists, winning 29.53% of the vote against 27.12% for the coalition led by Alexis Tsipras. Samaras called the result a victory for Europe.

“The Greek people today voted for the European course of Greece and that we remain in the euro,” Samaras declared in a victory speech. “This is an important moment for Greece and the rest of Europe,” he insisted, saying that Athens would honour the commitments it made in exchange for rescue loans from the EU and IMF.

It had been hoped that the election – following an indecisive ballot on 6 May – would help clear a political landscape marred by escalating polarization and growing extremism. Sunday’s poll failed to do either.

As the scramble began to put together a government that can steer Greece through its worst crisis in modern history, Syriza’s charismatic leader said that no matter what government was formed, it would face extraordinary opposition from his party.

“From Monday the struggle will continue,” he said. “We will be vindicated. The future does not belong to those who terrorise, but to those who hope.”

Time is of the essence if the crisis-hit country is to end weeks of political paralysis and form a government.

But the inability of any party to win an outright majority, and the strength of the turnout for Syriza, will ensure that Greece’s attempt to re-find political equilibrium will by anything but easy.

Analysts last night said the young firebrand Tsipras – until just a few weeks ago barely known outside the borders of Greece as the head of a party that garnered a mere 4.6% of the vote in 2009 — was exactly where he wanted to be: “a close second”.

On a platform of rejecting the onerous terms on which Athens has been able to keep its debt-choked economy afloat, the charismatic leader has been able to capture Greeks from all walks of life, not least supporters of the socialist Pasok party who have been infuriated by repeated wage and pension cuts.

In opposition, controlling anti-austerity protests and pressure on the street, there is widespread consensus that the radical leftists are bound to pick up support. A weak government mandated to pass yet more unpopular austerity measures could ultimately collapse. Many do not exclude fresh elections by the end of the year.

“There is widespread suspicion that to come a close second was Syriza’s ultimate aim,” said Dimitris Keridis, a professor of political science at Athens’ Panteion University. “As a very strong and powerful opposition it will be able to bide time until new elections, when it could easily win an absolute majority. Tsipras is up and coming and he will use the time to mature.”

Had Syriza come first, it would have come under pressure to dilute its vehement anti-austerity rhetoric. “The only way to disarm it of its populism is to have it in power,” said Keridis who added that the night belonged to those Greeks who “against their hearts” had voted for the conservatives as the only assured way of keeping their country in the eurozone.

Pollsters say that countless leftwing Greeks, fearing for the country’s future in the euro zone, abandoned traditional allegiances and threw their weight behind New Democracy and Samaras, a hawkish leader who is widely disliked.

The spectre of further social and political unrest in a country that is already on a knife-edge was highlighted by the good showing of the neo–Nazi Golden Dawn party, which won 7% of the vote – almost what it clinched in May when, for the first time since the collapse of military rule, the far-rightists were catapulted into parliament.

The extremists have shot up in popularity in areas that are struggling with crime, illegal immigrants and worsening poverty, the result of successive waves of wage and pension reductions demanded by foreign creditors. But some pollsters also attributed their popularity to the on-screen assault by the party’s official spokesman earlier this month of two leftwing female politicians; one described it as a “huge vote winner”.

Across Greece’s divisive political spectrum there was speculation that Samaras would be able to form a viable coalition with the socialist Pasok and the small Democratic left – parties that have also agreed to accept the onerous terms of bailout funds even if they, too, want to renegotiate the package.

Insiders, however, said that Samaras’ own position at the head of such an administration was likely “to be a problem”. Announcing that there wasn’t “a single day to lose”, Evangelos Venizelos, the leader of Pasok, said it was imperative that Greece acquire a government of “national responsibility”, intimating that his own condition would be that Syriza took part.

Pro-bailout parties now constitute 50% of the electorate. But with the other half also vehemently opposed to the austerity policies dictated by foreign lenders, Greece’s rollercoaster ride is unlikely to end soon. It is now well into its fifth year of recession, with unemployment at a record 22% and worsening levels of poverty leaving thousands of Greeks destitute and homeless. Resistance to further austerity measures is only going to grow.

Greek elections: voters give Europe and single currency a chance

Category : Business

Rightwing New Democracy party hopes to lead coalition while left gains from votes against austerity

European leaders working to avert a meltdown of the single currency gained some respite when Greek voters handed a narrow victory to mainstream conservatives and the chance to forge a pro-euro and pro-bailout coalition.

In the single most closely watched election in years, which amounted to a referendum on whether Greece would become the first country to be forced out of the single currency, the anti-austerity radical Alexis Tsipras was also given a boost, increasing his share of the vote to more than 27%. On a momentous night in European politics, Greece’s conservative New Democracy, under Antonis Samaras, appeared to have pulled the country back from the brink of what many feared would be a national catastrophe and averted a much deeper immediate crisis in Europe.

Meanwhile, the Socialists in France, under President François Hollande, secured a comfortable absolute parliamentary majority, immeasurably strengthening the president’s hand in the looming battles over the future of Europe and its beleaguered currency.

European leaders postponed their departure for a G20 summit in Mexico in order to be able to digest the outcome of the ballot in Greece, which posed the most severe challenge to the EU and the euro.

The fallout from the Greek election and the broader issue of how to avert a renewed European banking crisis and stabilise the currency will dominate the Mexico negotiations, with the US and the UK pressing the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain to ward off the risk of collapse by coming up with persuasive action by the end of the month.

The G20 talks will be promptly followed by a flurry of EU summitry climaxing in a European Council of heads of government in Brussels at the end of next week.

Samaras will now be asked to try to form a government, after his New Democracy narrowly defeated Tsipras’s Syriza coalition of radical leftists by 2.4 percentage points. He began the quest to build a coalition with an appeal to form a government of “national salvation”. He hailed the result as a “victory for Europe”. In a sense, after two years of Europe supplying a lifeline to Greece, the tables turned with the Greek electorate delivering a bit more time for Europe’s leaders to secure the currency’s future. “The Greek people voted for the European course of Greece and that we remain in the euro,” Samaras declared. “This is an important moment for Greece and the rest of Europe.” Athens would honour its commitments made in exchange for rescue loans from the EU and IMF.

The arithmetic pointed to a grand coalition of the two traditionally biggest parties, New Democracy and the centre-left Pasok socialists, which mustered about 160 seats between them in the 300-seat chamber. But such a coalition between arch-enemies will be unstable.

The European powers will put pressure on the two traditionally big parties. Although ravaged in last month’s inconclusive election, the two campaigned in effect to remain in the euro and to stick roughly to the draconian eurozone terms imposed on Greece as the price for two bailouts amounting to €240bn and a halving of its government debt.

Tsipras, who stunned Europe by coming from nowhere in May to take 17% of the vote and second place, improved vastly on his performance with some 27% by campaigning to reject the bailout terms, ameliorate the austerity programmes, and yet keep Greece in the euro. He might be happier to emerge as a formidable and strengthened opposition leader.

Leading EU politicians had warned the Greeks that a Tsipras victory would mean ejection from the single currency, a campaign that backfired to judge by the strength of the Syriza result. All the signs now are that, despite the tough talk in the election campaign, the Europeans will shift to relaxing the terms of Greece’s bailout, while emphasising that the broad conditions have to be met.

“I can well imagine that the schedule will be discussed again,” said the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, , suggesting that the timeline set for Greece’s budget deficit reduction programme will be eased. Belgian officials made similar noises. There was nonetheless palpable relief across the European elite that Tsipras would probably not be able to form a government, which would have triggered a much more perilous phase in the European crisis.

In a statement , the leadership of the 17-country eurozone also hinted at a willingness to renegotiate Greece’s bailout terms. “The Eurogroup reiterates its commitment to assist Greece in its adjustment effort,” the statement said. “The Eurogroup expects the [EU and IMF] institutions to return to Athens as soon as a new government is in place to exchange views with the new government on the way forward.”

The heads of the European Commission and Council also pledged “to stand by Greece as a member of the EU family and of the Euro area.”

Attention now turns to the broader plans being hatched for next week’s summit aimed at charting the way towards a more stable, durable, and centralised eurozone “banking union” and “fiscal union”. The moves will see David Cameron both supporting and opposing the direction of policy in the eurozone, demanding that eurozone leaders embark on an integrationist leap while insisting on guarantees that Britain is spared being roped into any parts of the new regime. “The reality is that there are a set of things the eurozone countries need to do, and it is up to the eurozone countries to decide whether they are prepared to make the sacrifices these entail,” he will say in Mexico on Monday.

The German government’s response that it does not see why it should make those sacrifices at Britain’s bidding in order to come up with a new regime that Britain is urging. The argument, likely to escalate over the coming weeks, is about the shape and powers for a new European “banking union” which would put some 25 of the biggest EU banks posing a “systemic risk” to the financial system under the authority of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

“The alternatives to action that creates a more coherent euro-zone are either perpetual stagnation from a eurozone crisis that is never resolved,” Cameron is to say, “or a break-up caused by a failure to address underlying economic fundamentals that would have financial consequences that would damage the world economy including Britain.”

Greek elections: Greece returns to the polls – live coverage

Category : Business

New Democracy projected to win election
Exit polls make had them neck-and-neck
Election taking place amid severe economic hardship

10.52pm: I’m now going to be wrapping up the liveblog. The elections may have resulted in a win for the conservative New Democracy party, but there’s been fighting talk from Alexis Tspiras of Syriza, which came a very close second. He sees the party in a strong place as opposition.

This is only the beginning for New Democracy, forming a coalition is not going to be easy – as Syriza found last time around.

The US and the EU have been issuing supportive statements on Greece but have called for timely progress.

Antonis Samaras has three days to form a new government. If he fails, it falls to Syriza. If they pass, it falls to Pasok in third place. For many, a worst case scenario would see new elections. But as Tsipras’s statement indicates, he, as others, are keen to find some kind of stability. When it comes to the euro, for now it seems, that may happen.

You can read a short summary of the evening’s events here.

10.51pm: Lizzy Davies has more from Yiannis, a 49-year-old journalist.

Yiannis said that the party he voted for – Syriza – wasn’t, in his opinion, “ready for power”. “But I know most of them, not all, and they wanted to try,” he said. “The first left government in Greece ever. In the end now we’re going to have one of those governments that has been running Greece for 38 years. And I’m sure there will be more austerity coming.”

Yiannis voted Syriza because he wanted “a big change”. And that is exactly what he has not got. Two kinds of people had voted for ND, he said – those acting out of “fear of the new” and those motivated by interests connected to Greece’s rampant clientelism. Old habits, he said, die hard.

“An old person called me from a village the other day. They were saying, ‘you know this party, Syriza? They have to take care of us’. For 38 years these parties took corruption from the top level right down to the lowest.”

10.50pm: The Guardian’s Lizzy Davies has been talking to citizen journalists at the RadioBubble headquarters.

I’ve come to the citizen journalism HQ of Athens (aka Radio Bubble) to hear how people are feeling in the aftermath of tonight’s results. I spoke to three people, all of whom voted Syriza. None wanted their surnames to be published.
Silia said she was disappointed in her fellow Greeks. “They’ve elected the ones who lie to them again and again,” she said. “It was the dirtiest campaign of all ages. And it seems it worked. That is something I find really frustrating. I’m 100% sure that every one of their [ND's] voters is going to regret it in a few months. I don’t say that with joy.”

She thinks there will be more elections in under a year – by which time, she hopes, Syriza will have become stronger. In the meantime Antonis Samaras’s nationalist leanings will cause problems with Greece’s neighbours and with its immigrants, she said. “The only thing that really, really makes me sad is because with that guy in power the Golden Dawn will have a party. We are going to experience some very rough months.”

Nikos, a freelance journalist who helps out at both Radio Bubble and a citizen journalism project called MindTheCam, which was born out of the Syntagma protests, also thinks there could be new elections if the wrangling continues – perhaps even by mid-July. Either that, he says, or Greece would get an unstable government full of “unwilling” MPs who were prepared to vote down government legislation. Nikos blamed a smear campaign for feeding anti-Syriza propaganda but admits that even he thinks they were not necessarily ready to govern. Might there even be a modicum of relief in the party HQ tonight? “I think there will be some relief but I think they’ll have a tactic of relentless fighting against New Democracy,” he said. “I think this election will not give [ND] approval. This election will see Syriza even stronger because of the stance it’s going to take [against ND].”

10.49pm: 10.40pm: Syriza may have come second but Alexis Tsipras and his supporters don’t seem to have noticed.

Our correspondent Helena Smith says a euphoric Tsipras has been addressing supporters – and ignoring congratulatory statements world leaders have been sending to the “pro-European” new Democracy party.

The far-left Syriza party may have come second but there is growing evidence tonight that “first is second.”

Speaking before thousands of cheering supporters waving red and white flags (some emblazoned with the hammer and sickle) outside Athens’ ornate university building Tsipras told the crowd: “Some may think that they won the elections tonight but they did not. The people won. The policies of austerity have been defeated. They will not be able to push forward with them either in Greece or Europe.”

Tsipras, who turns 38 next month, was joined on the stage by the World War II hero Manolis Glezos who in a first act of resistance against Nazi rule tore down the swastika from the Acropolis. The 92-year-old hailed the left’s capture of 27.1% of the vote as “the beginning of the end.”

“Who would have thought, or calculated, that we would go from 4.6% to this?” he enthused punching the air with his fist. “We must raise the flag, the flag of victory.”

10.42pm: Some international headlines:

Kathimerini: “ND wins faces challenge to govern

New York Times: “New Democracy leads vote, easing fears of euro exit

Der Spiegel online: “New Democracy looks set to win Greek election

Washington Post: “Pro-bailout party wins Greek vote

Corriere Della Serra: “Greece, the conservative pro-euro party first. With the pro-euro socialist majority

El Pais: “Supporters of the rescue win elections in Greece

10.31pm: 9.48pm: Some headlines from the British press on Greece, courtesy of the BBC’s Nick Sutton:

Monday’s Guardian front page – “Greece gives Europe a chance” #tomorrowspaperstoday

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) June 17, 2012

Monday’s FT front page – “Samaras leads in Greece poll” #tomorrowspaperstoday

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) June 17, 2012

Monday’s International Herald Tribune front page – “Tight Greek vote leaves Euro in flux”#tomorrowspaperstoday

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) June 17, 2012

Independent: “A close call for Europe..then Greek voters finally decide to accept austerity” #tomorrowspaperstoday

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) June 17, 2012

Monday’s i front page – “Victory by a whisker” #tomorrowspaperstoday

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) June 17, 2012

Monday’s Telegraph front page – “Greek vote leaves euro in balance” #tomorrowspaperstoday

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) June 17, 2012

10.29pm: A joint statement from Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission:

The Greek people have spoken. We fully respect its democratic choice. We are hopeful that the election results will allow a government to be formed quickly.

Today, we salute the courage and resilience of the Greek citizens, fully aware of the sacrifices which are demanded from them to redress the Greek economy and build new, sustainable growth for the country.

We will continue to stand by Greece as a member of the EU family and of the Euro area.

We look forward to work with the new government and to support the continued efforts of Greece to put its economy on a sustainable path.

The second economic adjustment programme agreed between Greece and the Eurogroup is the basis upon which to build to foster growth, prosperity and jobs for the Greek people. We stand ready to continue assisting Greece in achieving these goals.

10.22pm: Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, has been giving sending some inclusive tweets about Greece.

He says: “We will continue to stand by Greece‬ as a member of the EU family and the Euro‬ area. We stand ready to continue assisting Greece.”

Also: “The 2nd economic adjustment programme agreed between Greece‬ & Eurogroup‬ is the basis upon which to build to foster growth.”

Not all responses to that second remark have been positive.

10.10pm: The White House has congratulated Greece but has called for “timely progress” on economic issues.

In a statement, Jay Carney, president Obama’s press secretary, said: “We congratulate the Greek people on conducting their election in this difficult time. We hope this election will lead quickly to the formation of a new government that can make timely progress on the economic challenges facing the Greek people. As president Obama and other world leaders have said, we believe that it is in all our interests for Greece to remain in the euro area while respecting its commitment to reform.”

9.55pm: They say football has the power to bring people together.

With tensions between citizens in Germany and Greece over the Greek bailout comes this: the two are to play each other in their next match in the Euro 2012 competition.

9.24pm: Guardian city editor Jill Treanor has been looking at some early analysis of the results coming in from City analysts.

Alberto Gallo, head of European macro credit research at Royal Bank of Scotland, said the election result “should give some time to Greece” although it will still be hard for the country to meet the targets set under the current terms of its bailout.

“If the country had not had a government there would have been a very
strong risk of even greater deposit flight,” said Gallo.

Some €44bn had been withdrawn from Greek banks between April 2011 and 2012, according to Bank of Greece. “That may now reduce,” Gallo said. He noted that what was needed was a leaner banking system and
cross-border guarantees inside the EU.

“The system is exposed to deposit movement. It is very cheap to move your money [within the eurozone]“, he said. A Greek exit may now be put off. “The risk has moved towards next year,” he said.

9.18pm: They may have lost out to New Democracy but Syriza will mount a stong opposition. One commentator believes Alexis Tspiras’s move will give Greece some of the equilibrium it needs. No one wants to see Greece without a government.

Syriza supporters also happy with results in some areas. This picture from the Guardian’s Jon Henley in Zakynthos:

Syriza supporters celebrate capturing Zakynthoswith around 35% of the vote in #Greece2012 #EuroDebtTales…

— jon henley (@jonhenley) June 17, 2012

9.17pm: It seems Samaras has already begun.

ND leader Samaras says he has spoken to ‘many’ European leaders tonight and will speak to more #Greece2012

— Kathimerini English(@ekathimerini) June 17, 2012

9.02pm: Here’s a summary of events in Greece so far:

A winner hasn’t been officially announced but after official projections were announced, New Democracy has been accepted as gaining the most votes. The evening saw a rash of exit polls that showed New Democracy and radical left-wing party Syriza neck and neck.

• New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras has given an acceptance speech, confirming support for the EU and inviting like-minded parties to form a coalition.

Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras has called to give his congratulations but has warned of the dangers of not having popular support. He said the party would begin a strong position as opposition from Monday

Horsetrading between the parties has begun. Pasok has said it won’t form a government without Syriza. Syriza has indicated (see above) that it would prefer a spell in opposition. The Independent Greeks, who were one option for New Democracy, have said they keen to support a government that will condemn the bailout agreements.

8.42pm:Alexis Syriza has also given a speech, talking of “psychological terrorism” of the parties of yesterday.

“We’re proud we lifted this weight and carried this responsibility. We’re thankful for the support.”

He said Syriza’s results showed “a singular achievement” in Greece’s recent history.

“Syriza is the basic party for anti-bailout.”

“I called Samaras and congratulated him. He has the possibility of forming a government on the basis of his mandate and policies.

We will be present in developments in position as opposition. In a strong presence of Syriza, we won’t sacrifice our position.

The government must take action for the benefit of the country. [The bailout] has not been legally accepted by the people.

In a month and a half, we’ll have to face [the conditions of the bailout].”

In a warning to New Democracy, Tsipras, said:

“The government, the New Democracy, must bear in mind great issues – it can’t carry on as it used to without taking the people.”

In an echo to Samaras’ speech, in which he called twice for justice for Greek citizens, Tsipras said:

We’ll find our own justice. We propose to upset the measures and the bailout. It’s the only viable option for Europe.

He said that from Monday, the party would “continue in our struggle” not for those on the side of “terrorism” but for those on the side of “hope”.

8.33pm: Syntagma Square in Athens is full of people and a mass of press. Some people chanting “he’s the prime minister [Samaras]” according a Sky News reporter, who says the tone is subdued – no overt celebrations or protest.

Samaras now meeting supporters.

8.26pm: Samaras has just made his speech. Here’s what he had to say:

And it voted for those policies which will bring jobs, development, justice and security for Greek citizens. We will not have new adventure, we will not doubt the position of Greece in Europe. We won’t be cowed by fear.

It is such a significant moment for Greece and the rest of Europe … We will invite those parties that take in these objectives to participate in this unity … We don’t have time for small-time politics.

We must bring development into the economy and assurances that we’re past the worst. We will respect the signatures and promises that we’ve made … We need continuity when everything is falling – the economy, society…

Thank you to the Greek people, who in their conscience trust us in this difficult period. We didn’t give populist promises. Just the truth. And we were heard.

We will have a new unity with European directives … Our obligations the necessary policies for our governance.

We cannot continue to injure every family with government. I will be consciencious but stable. We must emerge from the crisis.

Greece must be governable and we will have a government.

He summarised his speech in English:

His party would honour commitments to the EU.
It was a victory for all Europe.
A call for all political parties that share objectives to form government.
Sacrifices of Greek people will be reflected.
Determined to do what it takes and do it fast.

8.16pm: Not a smooth start. Samaras is poised to make his speech but is having problems with the microphone.

8.13pm: Amid a busy press scrum New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has arrived in Syntagma Square in Athens, ahead of a victory speech.

8.09pm: The parties in Greece it seems have accepted a win for New Democracy in Greece.

Alexis Tsipras from Syriza has reportedly called Antonis Samaras to offer his congratulations.

It seems that Syriza may be planning to mount a strong opposition rather than wait to see if New Democracy can form a coalition government. Even if it fails.

SYRIZA spokesman tells Skai that the party will not take up the mandate to form govt if ND fails to do so #Greece2012

— Kathimerini English(@ekathimerini) June 17, 2012


SYRIZA says no coalition. New Democracy says grand coalition. PASOK says will only work if SYRIZA is in. See you in 6 weeks

— Dave Wyllie (@journodave) June 17, 2012

PASOK leader Venizelos proposes unity gov’t of ND, PASOK, SYRIZA and Democratic Left #Greece2012

— Kathimerini English(@ekathimerini) June 17, 2012

Projections: Conservative New Democracy party comes in first in Greek elections, could form pro-bailout coalition: -RJJ

— The Associated Press (@AP) June 17, 2012

“@ekathimerini: SYRIZA spokesman rules out participation in ND-PASOK coalition #Greece2012” Giddy up! The horse trading begins!

— Robert Nisbet (@RobNisbetSky) June 17, 2012

7.53pm: Horsetrading between the parties has begun:

Pasok has been publicly stating that it will not join any coalition without Syriza.

Pro-EU New Democracy on the other hand has been talking on Sky News about a “grand coalition”.

Panos Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, a right-wing party that could have been in line to ally with New Democracy has told the press that the party is keen to support a government that will condemn the bailout agreements – that would in effect rule out a deal with New Democracy.

7.50pm:While the official projection could still change, it proved highly accurate in the May election. Costas Panagopoulos of pollster Alco, said it would have declined to publish a forecast as the figures are just too close. We will see as the night wears on.

7.44pm: You can follow Skai TV’s results board here – it helpfully has a breakdown of the total number of votes counted, not just percentages.

7.36pm: The official projection figures for the election have now been announced by Greece’s interior ministry. Greek pollster, Marika Lambrou, said this:

There will be seven parties in the next parliament, as was the case on 6 May. There will be no upset in the order of the parties but there has been a “considerable increase” in the number of votes for the two leading parties.

New Democracy will receive 29.53% of the vote, equivalent to 128 seats.
Syriza will receive 27.12% – 72 seats.
Pasok will receive 12.2% – 23 seats.
Independent Greeks will receive 7.56% – 20 seats.
Golden Dawn will receive 6.95% – 18 seats.
Democratic Left will receive 6.23% – 17 seats.
Greek Communist Party will receive 4.47% – 12 seats.

Lambrou said that the figures were unlikely to change but there would be continual flow of results as they arrive.

No other parties gained the 3% threshold needed to enter parliament.

7.29pm: Whatever happens, the success of the Syriza coalition is without doubt. The party won just 4.6% of the vote in 2009, when Pasok got 43.9% and New Democracy 33.5%.

In May, Syriza it got just under 17% and now exit polls suggesting it’s on course for between 27.5% and 30.5%.

Ian Traynor, the Guardian’s Europe editor, believes it a moral victory.

#greece2012 obviously too close to call. but if it’s really that close, at least a moral victory for tsipras

— Ian Traynor (@traynorbrussels) June 17, 2012

7.19pm: New Democracy could form a coalition with Pasok, but from this tweet from Radiobubble’s Spyros Gkelis suggests might not happen.

PASOK officially states that won’t participate in any government without SYRIZA in it #Greece2012 #rbnews

— spyros gkelis (@northaura) June 17, 2012

7.10pm: One of the biggest tensions in Greece has been the overwhelming desire to stay in the euro zone – with one recent poll saying 80% were supportive. However, the opposite is true of the austerity measures proposed by EU leaders which would secure this.

7.08pm: Greek web radio and online community, Radiobubble, has this:

First results show left-wing Syriza ahead in the following areas: Attiki, Achaia, Kerkyra, Lasithi, Chania, Heraklion, Rethymno.

New Democracy along with Pasok can form a coalition government securing 159 seats.

7.02pm: More on that new poll. The Greece interior ministry has put New Democracy on 31.1% and Syriza on 25.4% after 15% of the votes counted. A caveat however – results are more likely skewed to the right because rural areas go first. Athens is likely to push this again towards the left.

6.50pm: Just in from from Helena Smith, our correspondent in Athens, on what happens if the Greeks again return no party with an outright majority.

The inability of any party to win an outright majority, and the strength of the turnout for Syriza, will ensure that Greece’s attempt to refind political equilibrium at a time of deepening economic paralysis will be anything but easy. New Democracy may well win and is already discussing who the prime minister of a coalition government will be.

But even if a government is formed by tomorrow evening – and there is almost no Greek who after six weeks of political paralysis does not want to see an administration being sworn in asap – the big question is whether it can fulfill the conditions to keep rescue funds flowing into an economy that is on its knees. Under the terms of the debt-stricken country’s latest EU-IMF backed bailout package, Athens must meet a number of deeply unpopular austerity and structural reforms by the end of the month.

6.44pm: A new Greek exit poll is putting New Democracy marginally ahead.

6.40pm: Greece has enough funds to last for public services until the 20th July says Ed Conway, BBC economics editor.

Whatever the outcome of the election, Greece still needs to meet some agreed structural reforms by the end of June.

6.36pm: Sky News reporter says there is a rumour going around the Syriza camp that Alexis Tsipras’s wife has just given birth to their second child. A metaphor perhaps?

6.31pm: Greek Skai Television has given its first seats prediction

Skai TV gives first seat projections from their exit polls: Syriza 28% 124 seats, ND, 27.5% 73 seats, Pasok 13% 33 seats. I

— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) June 17, 2012

6.28pm: Any one party would need 36-38% of the vote to form a workable majority. Ordinarily this would be 51% but a bonus 50 seats will given to the party in the lead, bringing the percentage down.

6.13pm: Too close to call and with some exit polls suggesting only half a point between New Democracy and Syriza. Will Greece find itself in the same situation again?

One thing that Angela Merkel must be considering is whether she and the EU can soften the terms of the austerity package. Antonis Samaras from New Democracy has shown support for the bailout deal but has said it would look to renogotiate.

Alexis Tsipras believes that EU leaders will not enforce austerity measures because of the possible negative financial effect that a default would have on the rest of the euro zone. Tsipras will essentially be calling their bluff.

Either way, Merkel will seriously have consider whether to insist on terms or renegotiate.

6.01pm: Jo Adetunji taking over from Haroon on the Greece elections coverage this eve.

The polls are now closed and the count begins. All the exit polls suggest it is neck and neck between the conservative New Democracy party, headed by Antonis Samaras and the radical left coalition Syriza, headed by Alexis Tsipras.

Angela Merkel, François Hollande and Mario Monti have delayed their trip to the G20 summit in Mexico. Merkel, who like the rest of Europe awaits the results of this second election, may be making a statement later on.

5.53pm: Whether or not Syriza turns out to be the biggest party the exit polls tell us that it is a stunning result for its leader Alexis Tsiparis.

The party won just 4.6% of the vote in 2009, when Pasok got 43.9% and New Democracy 33.5%.

In May, Syriza got just under 17% and now exit polls are suggesting it is on course for between 27.5% and 30.5%. Tsipras, just 38, was was barely known beyond the borders of his homeland six weeks ago. As upturns in political fortunes go, there can be few to match it.

5.21pm: Here are some more interesting exit/opinion poll-related tweets

Skai TV graphic of Common exit poll across 5 Greek media outlets: Syriza 27-30, ND 27.5-30.5, Pasok 10-12…

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) June 17, 2012

#Greece2012 Pub Issue (opinion poll): Syriza 31-25, ND 30-25, Pasok 15-11, IndGreeks 9-6, DemLeft 9-6, KKE 7-4, GolDawn 7-4, Recreation 3-1

— Efthimia Efthimiou (@EfiEfthimiou) June 17, 2012

Exit polls suggest 1st party to get about 130 seats. Makes PASOK kingmaker. Dem Left unlikely to have enough MPs for sole coalition partner

— Nick Malkoutzis (@NickMalkoutzis) June 17, 2012

0.5 percent is about 35,000 votes says Public Issue analyst Yiannis Mavris. Potential difference between SYRIZA and ND. #Greece2012

— Nick Malkoutzis (@NickMalkoutzis) June 17, 2012

“@AthensNewsEU: One in three people voted differently compared to May 6 polls, says state-run NET#Greece2012#greece

— Kostas Kallergis (@KallergisK) June 17, 2012

#Greece Pollster Stratos Fanaras saying a part of voters-mainly younger people who came to vote in last 2hrs-refused to answer to exit polls

— amalia negreponti (@aliama) June 17, 2012

Two important data: 1.Youngsters vote last. 2. Youngsters vote for left #Greece2012 #ekloges12

— spyros gkelis (@northaura) June 17, 2012

5.13pm: Athens News has an observation from a pollster, who concludes, based on the exit polls, no party will win an overall majority.

You could probably guess that yourself given the closeness of the exit polls but remember that in Greece, the party with the most votes gets a bonus of an extra 50 seats.

The first party (ND or Syriza) will get around 130 seats, pollster Elias Nikolakopoulos says. Needs 20 more for a majority government.

— Athens News (@AthensNewsEU) June 17, 2012

5.05pm: Here’s results of another poll, which puts the margin between the two frontrunners at just 0.5%.

SYRIZA 28, ND 27.5, PASOK 13, Dem Left 7.5, Ind Greeks 7.5, GD 5.5, KKE 5.5 Skai TV opinion poll, not exit poll #Greece2012

— Nick Malkoutzis (@NickMalkoutzis) June 17, 2012

5.01pm: The polls have closed. Exit polls make it too close to call

#Greece 2012 Megatv poll: ND 27.5-30.5 Syriza 27.30 Pasok 10-12 IndGreeks 6-7.5

— Efthimia Efthimiou (@EfiEfthimiou) June 17, 2012

First exit poll by Star Channel: ND 27-30, SYRIZA 26-29, PASOK 10-12, Ind Greeks 6-8, Golden Dawn 6-8, Dem Left 6-7, KKE 5-6 #Greece2012

— Kathimerini English(@ekathimerini) June 17, 2012

4.37pm: It looks like the answer to the question I posed in the previous update (will there be a last minute surge in voting?) is “yes”.

#greece sudden rush to polling stations in the past hour:ages 25-40,probably Syriza voters.

— amalia negreponti (@aliama) June 17, 2012

#ekloges12 higher than expected the participation of Greeks in the latest elections compaped to the May 6th elections.

— yannis moutsos (@yannismoutsos) June 17, 2012

4.30pm: Half an hour left till polls close. Is there going to be a last minute surge in voting?

Voting really picking up here in Corinth. Ppl of all ages. Queues spilling onto pavement. #rbnews #Greece2012

— Mehran Khalili (@mkhalili) June 17, 2012

4.25pm: Once again, thanks for all the interesting comments below the line.

Here’s an interesting one from Aggeliki that perhaps goes some way to explain the surge in support for Syriza among people who did not vote for them in the past and who are not necessarily completely ideologically aligned with them.

I am not in Greece today, but if I were I would be voting for SYRIZA.

I am not a SYRIZA supporter, in the sense that I have never voted for them and there is plenty about them that I dislike. Like many current SYRIZA voters that I know, this is the first time I have ever even considered voting for them, and I’d like to outline my reasoning:

1) SYRIZA is a party that has not been tried in government and has virtually no support in the mainstream media. As such, I think SYRIZA is relatively free from the corruption and vested interests that plague Greece’s political life.

2) SYRIZA is a left-wing party, with a realistic chance of being in government. On the same reasoning, I would vote for Democratic Left, had it managed to achieve the same momentum.

I’d like to expand on the second point a bit. I prefer a left-wing party to a right-wing one, not because I believe there is no value to be found in right-wing ideology – in other words, I am not a blind adherent of any one ideology. I do, however, believe that in this moment in time left-wing politics are more consistent and relevant with regards to: a) explaining the situations we find ourselves in (not only in Greece, but globally), and b) offering solutions with long-term potential. Furthermore, and where in Greece in particular is concerned, I don’t believe that at the moment there exists a Greek right-wing option with even minimal merit.

The above point about ideology aside, my vote for SYRIZA would primarily be a pragmatic one. I don’t expect any party at this point to implement any particular ideology or to strictly stick to any particular manifesto. I am fully aware of the fact that, at this moment in time, any party in government will have to do things incrementally, one step at a time, under unstable circumstances which will guide and shape their actions every step of the way.

4.00pm: One hour to go until the polls close.

3.36pm: Condemning the outside interference in the election, Greek blogger Nick Malkoutzis, who is also deputy editor of deputy editor of Kathimerini English Edition, writes that “Europe that has become scared of democracy”.

This is the quid pro quo of the loan deals: Greece receives money in return for certain fiscal measures and structural reforms. Nowhere does the agreement dictate how people should vote in a free election.

This hasn’t prevented a number of European officials from expressing an opinion about their preferred outcome of Sunday’s vote. The latest to do so was Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. “If the radical left wins – which cannot be ruled out – the consequences for the currency union are unforeseeable,” said Juncker, who as head of the Eurogroup also holds an institutional role within the European Union, a role that – theoretically – implies neutrality on such sensitive issues as national elections.

Juncker’s comment is in keeping with repeated interventions by Europeans over the last month. Their comments implied a deep disapproval of potential choices by free citizens. This began in February when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble made the incredible suggestion that Greece should hold off elections and allow the interim government led by Lucas Papademos to stay in power for longer. This revealed a Europe that has become scared of democracy, unable to deal with the uncomfortable realities that it can produce.

3.08pm: Greek documentary-maker Aris Chatzistefanou, who made a powerful film for the Guardian on how austerity cuts are affecting Greece’s biggest hospital, said whatever happens today the difficulties in the country will continue for months to come.

The whole political landscape that was created after the end of the dictatorship in ’74 is now collapsing and I’m talking mainly about the socialist Pasok and the conservative New Democracy. Even if New Democracy manage to win the second round of election, we are talking about completely new political parties than we have seen for the last decade so it’s difficult to talk about hope because one way or another, whether pro-memorandum [austerity plan] or or anti-memorandum forces win, we are awaiting a very very difficult period for many months to come. But it is a change and every change can provide some hope. We are saying here in Greece that the old is now dead but the new is yet to be born.

I was thinking that the most important part will come after the elections whatever the outcome and it will be the people who decide the decisions on which path to follow. If we have a win for conservative New Democracy, I am sure that unions and many people will demonstrate against the new package of measures, the new austerity measures. If we have Syriza as the first party, first we have to see what will happen, if it will manage to create a government and then it will need support from the people because we know that the climate against the party is really negative.

We have seen newspaper articles from Germany saying Tsipras is a populist and you have to avoid him. So we understand that he will receive huge pressure from Brussels, from Berlin and it will all depend on the support he will receive on the streets from people. So it’s an interesting day today because of the elections but I think that the following weeks will give us a more clear idea of what is to follow.

2.49pm: News in from Helena Smith, our correspondent in Athens, on the latest unofficial exit polls being conducted on behalf of political parties ahead of the close of the ballot at 7pm local time (5pm BST).

I have just spoken to a senior cadre in the socialist Pasok party where unofficial polling results are being monitored on a two-hourly basis. “The next few hours are crucial as the rush to vote has only just begun among young people,” he told me. “From now to the close of the election polling stations are likely to be packed.”

Latest results, he said, show the conservative “pro-European” New Democracy party in the lead with 29% of the vote closely followed by the anti-bailout far-left Syriza party with 27%. Pasok is in third with 12%. The small European-oriented Democrat Left has around 6%. Support for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which was catapulted into parliament for the first time since the collapse of military rule in 1974, was also at 6%. Figures for the communist KKE party and anti-austerity Independent Greeks party were not available.

Exit polls will be released at 7pm Greek time but with at least 15 % of voters undecided analysts have warned that it won’t be before 9:30pm that “a clear result” comes through.

2.32pm: Here are some more polling updates via Twitter.

V. quiet all day, said reps @ my central Athens polling station; same @ my parents’ stations. High abstention, after all?#ekloges #Greece

— Finisterre67 (@Finisterre67) June 17, 2012

Polling station in centre of Corinth tells me ~50% of eligible votes in so far. Total for May elex was 70%. 3 hrs to go. #rbnews #Greece2012

— Mehran Khalili (@mkhalili) June 17, 2012

Voting at the Rafina elementary school. #greece2012 #rbnews…

— Elisa(@permabloom) June 17, 2012

2.02pm: Stratos Safioleas has tweeted some useful information about the mechanism of today’s vote.

So far it is expected that no single party will command Parliamentary majority (total number of seats: 300) #Greece2012

— Stratos Safioleas (@stratosathens) June 17, 2012

The party that gets the most of the votes nationally receives 50 seats bonus. #Greece2012

— Stratos Safioleas (@stratosathens) June 17, 2012

For a party to enter the Greek Parliament it has to account for at least 3% of the total number of votes. #Greece2012

— Stratos Safioleas (@stratosathens) June 17, 2012

Important difference from May 6: voters can vote for the party only, NOT the MPs. MPs are ranked by the party this time #Greece2012

— Stratos Safioleas (@stratosathens) June 17, 2012

1.21pm: Another hand grenade has been found in the vicinity of the Skai TV studio where an unexploded device was found earlier (see 11.27am).

#Greece TR @doleross 2nd hand grenade found in SKAI TV. Anti-terrorism services investigating. Location of phone warning identified #rbnews

— Theodora Oikonomides (@IrateGreek) June 17, 2012

Skai has been accused of broadcasting pro-austerity propaganda. There is no evidence at present as to who was behind the attack.

1.09pm: In one polling station in Athens, two-thirds of those eligible to vote have reportedly already done so.

#Greece2012 V @SatanikoKoutavi 65th polling station 4ppl frm provinces who vote in Athens: 2/3rds already voted… #rbnews

— Theodora Oikonomides (@IrateGreek) June 17, 2012

1.06pm: Here’s another contribution from a Greek taxi driver, via @oemoral, although this gentleman, on Chios, does not agree with the Athens cabbie quoted earlier (see 12.18pm).

My taxi driver contribution to #Ekloges2012. Giannis from Chios: “This is a story of fear on the island & I think it will translate to ND”

— ΣτράτοςΜωραΐτης  (@oemoral) June 17, 2012

12.52pm: Athens News reporter Damian Mac Con Uladh has witnessed the intimidating presence of the far right at a polling station. Golden Dawn got almost 7% of the vote last month after getting just 0.29% in 2009.

Polling station, Corinth: #GoldenDawn muscle men in quasi-uniform at school gates. Intimidation in itself. Next to melon seller. #greece2012

— Damian Mac Con Uladh (@damomac) June 17, 2012

#GoldenDawn quasi-uniform in Corinth consists of black shirts or T-shirts with party name in white, shades and military caps #greece2012

— Damian Mac Con Uladh (@damomac) June 17, 2012

12.33pm: It’s a big moment for Syriza – which won just 4.6% of the vote in 2009 – Lizzy Davies, in Athens, writes:

For those who have supported Syriza ever since it was a very small force in Greek politics, this is a moment of excitement tainted with anxiety. Mania Barsevski, a 53-year-old former public servant who was forced to take early retirement and is now living off her pension, accepted it was “a big responsibility” fraught with peril for her party. But, she said, there was no other choice.

“Of course we know it will be difficult. (If we win) we’ll take over an economy that is destroyed. But if we don’t win the situation will be even worse and by the next election there’ll be nothing left standing,” she said. “Wages and pensions will be lowered; health and education will be gutted. Whatever remains of national wealth will be sold for pennies.”

12.18pm: Wherever they are in the world, journalists so often seem to turn to taxi drivers to gauge the prevailing mood. Niki Kitsantonis, a stringer for the New York Times and International Herald Tribune has got the views of a Greek cabbie.

Greek cabbie who ditched socialists for Syriza says leftists are only hope. ‘I say bring on Alexis Tsipras, let’s see what he’s made of’

— NikiKitsantonis (@NikiKitsantonis) June 17, 2012

12.11pm: Thanks for all the interesting comments below the line. Here’s just a sample:


I’m off to vote SYRIZA now. It’s the only party that says things as they are – tear up the bailout terms and find a better way to service the debts while protecting the Greek economy and staying within the EZ. If the EU leaders insist on the austerity measures that are quite obviously crippling us, default and leave the EZ. it’s in their hands. Not ours.
It’s a real David and Goliath situation if he gets in – him and a whole system rotten to the core – but it’s got to be worth a shot. Anyway I’m done thinking about it. I’m voting with my heart.

And here’s a response:


Response to siren45, 17 June 2012 10:02AM

Syrzia’s position is to have their cake and eat it too. Terms were agreed. If Syrzia win and rip up those terms it is their action which renders Greeces continued membership of the Eurozone impossible.


Good morning. I decided to vote for Democratic Left, the only party which wants to be in government whether N.D. or SYRIZA win.
I hope N.D. wins so that people will remind themselves just how much incompetent and corrupt thieves they are (as a party) so that they will fall from government in less than a year from now, and be obliterated (as PASOK already is). But if Syriza wins, they will have to ally themselves with at least one more party, and it’s the one I will be voting for – so it’s a win-win situation for a government formation.


Greece, Ireland, and Spain have had austerity since 2009. Their economies have slumped, their unemployment rates have soared, middle income people have been pushed into poverty, and the poor have been pushed into destitution. And all in the name of getting the deficit down. But in each of these cases the debt to GDP ratio has increased since 2009.
It seems that the only people who have benefited have been right wing ideologues who have used austerity as a cover to strip employees of basic rights, to dismantle welfare support for the most vulnerable, and to sell off public assets to their mates (i.e. donors) in the private sector.
There seems to be no good reason for Greece to vote for more of the same failed neoliberal bollocks. Time for a change. Good luck Syriza and all those in Greece who want a more compassionate, more united country, with a revived economy. Its a beautiful country and it is a disgrace what the politicians, ECB, IMF and EU have done to it.

12.06pm: While voting has reportedly been brisk in many areas (Jon Henley said he was told people often come out early before it heats up too much), that is not the case everywhere.

Very low turnout at polling booth near #Syntagma in central Athens – less than one hundred out of some 600 registered voters #ekloges12

— Nathalie (@savaricas) June 17, 2012

Journalists suggest there is a bit of a lunchtime lull now.

Lunchtime o’clock at Keri polling station on Zakynthos, #Greece. Bit of a lull… #EuroDebtTales…

— jon henley (@jonhenley) June 17, 2012

I’m told a lull in voting here expected now as ppl eat + afternoon rest. Should pick up later in afternoon. #rbnews #Greece2012

— Mehran Khalili (@mkhalili) June 17, 2012

11.27am: A TV station in southern Athens has been the subject of an attempted attack with a hand grenade.

A defensive grenade was thrown outside media SKAI group, as the TV station says now (photo from TV)… #rbnews

— spyros gkelis (@northaura) June 17, 2012

A hand grenade was thrown at the building of @skaigr tv & radio stations. It didn’t explode, police at the scene. LIVE:

— Alεxandros (@greekdude) June 17, 2012

11.21am: New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has voted, reports Reuters.

Samaras, smiling but accompanied by nothing like the media attention enjoyed by [Syriza leader Alexis] Tsipras [see 9.40am], told reporters in the Peloponnesian town of Pylos where he cast his ballot: “Tomorrow will bring a new beginning for Greece.”

11.09am: Jon Henley is in Kera, on Zakynthos, where people are worried about the impact of the crisis on tourism. One restaurant owner told him takings in May and June are 45% to 50% down on last year.

This is obviously an island, and this particular part of it in particular, that’s dominated by tourism …During the summer months they absolutely rely on tourism and a lot of these people this morning have been really upset at the image of Greece that’s portrayed abroad and I have spoken to couple of people who said they’ve actually been called up or emailed by potential holiday makers or foreign customers wanting to come and stay in their villa or hotel or whatever and wanting to be reassured that there is in fact electricity and that there would be food in the shops and people are very very upset indeed about the kind of things that have been written and said about Greece over the past few months …The overriding impression really is ‘we want stability, we want a government that’s going to sit down and work with Europe and work hard and in the interests of the Greek people.’ But above all a government that’s going to allow Greece to …project some kind of image of stability and safety and that things here are normal and basically that it’s okay to come here on holiday.

As far as the relationship with Europe is concerned and the whole Euro issue opinions are pretty much divided. There’s sort of one group …usually the older people, who feel fairly comfortable about going back to the drachma. They’ve known it, it’s worked in the past but they stress if that were to happen it would obviously obviously have to be very carefully planned and it would be a disaster, what would obviously be a real disaster, which is what everybody says is if Greece goes crashing out of the Euro in some kind of unplanned and unforseen way.

But then there’s a whole other group of people, who tend to be younger, tend to be also more business types, who say ‘no, it would be an absolute catastrophe to leave the euro. You cannot turn the clock back now. The world has moved on since Greece had the drachma, everything is much more interlinked. We are in a globalised world now and Greece needs to be part of something bigger. How would we import sort of expensive foreign goods, in particular things like medicine and machinery if we had a week drachma?’

11.01am: A wry observation from Diane Shugart, in Poros:

if we cd collect royalties on the words “fear” and “hope” in pols’ statements, we’d be halfway to eliminating the greek deficit

— Diane Shugart (@dianalizia) June 17, 2012

10.45am: While the elections are being seen as a referendum on the austerity measures imposed on the Greek people – as well as on the Euro – the elections will not mean the end of hardship whatever the result, writes the Guardian’s Jon Henley.

Of the many ordinary Greek people I’ve met this week, none believe this country is in for anything but a long, hard, bruising struggle. Two of the most common reflections I’ve heard could be summed up in the phrases: “It’ll get worse before it can better,” and “I can’t see a way out.”

For some, the struggle has been under way for many months. The journalists of Eleftherotypia, who brought out one last special edition on Saturday, have been without pay since last August. They have survived through “personal Marshall plans” from friends and family or, in the case of Yannis Bogiopoulos, his wife’s unemployment benefit of €600 a month, which runs out in December.

Sustained by donations from labour organisations around the world and the communist trade union federation, the Halyvourgia steelworkers have also been unpaid since October. Their fight has come to symbolise the resistance of Greek workers to the savage austerity measures being inflicted on their country, and they show no signs of giving up yet.

Eleni Trivoulidou, a divorced, unemployed mother of four almost-grown but still dependent children, has been unable to find any kind of work for the past two years. She’s studying for an accountancy qualification at night school, but in the meantime survives on handouts from her parents – whose pensions have just been slashed – and ex-husband. All she asks is to be able to go out to the cafe occasionally with her friends.

10.27am: A 22-year-old fired two shots outside a polling station on Zakynthos, reports (Greek link). The report says that voting has continued despite the incident.

10.22am: A former cabinet minister has warned Greeks about the potential consequences of registering a protest vote, Lizzy Davies writes:

A former minister of justice for the centre-right New Democracy has this message for those tempted to thumb their nose at Greece’s long-dominant two parties.

Speaking as she came out of a polling station in Exarchia, Anna Benaki told me it was “understandable” that many people felt angry with her party and Pasok. But, she said, a protest vote for Syriza was not what the country needed.

“Now it’s not the proper moment…to punish the old parties but the opportunity to vote for someone who can take the country forward,” she

The election was “critical”, she added, because Greece needed to stay in the euro. New Democracy’s leader Antonis Samaras has cast today’s election as a straight choice between staying in the euro and the return of the drachma.

Syriza say this is a false, scaremongering portrayal of the situation and
that they, like the vast majority of Greeks, want to stay inside the


Athens polling station, quite busy, majority young crowd #Greece2012…

— Yiannis Mouzakis (@YiannisMouzakis) June 17, 2012

9.58am: The German tabloid Bild addressed a threatening letter to all Greeks yesterday, warning them about the consequences of voting for a party (it doesn’t name it, but clearly Syriza) that would row back on the austerity measures, Athens News reports. It’s very unsubtle and pretty horrible stuff:

If you did not want our billions, it would have been fine by us for you to vote for any leftists or rightist clown you wanted. But for over two years now, the situation is like this:

Your ATMs continue to give you euros, only because we put them there, the Germans and the other nations that have the euro …

If the elections are won by parties that want to put an end to austerity and reform, breaching every agreement, we will stop paying …

You will choose between painful logic and complete disaster. And we are very much afraid that you don’t get that yet.

9.52am: The industrious Lizzy Davies has been talking to a couple of Greeks who have cast their votes for the far right party.

Climbing down the steps of a polling station in Exarchia, Giorgios, a civil engineer, and Dimitris, an accountant, were happy to discuss who they’d just voted for. “For Golden Dawn,” they said, smartly dressed and smiling. “Because we feel they are more democratic than all the others.”

The main issues facing Greece, they said, were jobs and human rights. What about the human rights of the immigrants they despise?

“In my country, I feel strange. Why? Because there are two million people who are living here illegally,” said Giorgos, accusing immigrants of attacking Greek citizens. “Our children are in danger.” Dimitris chipped in: “And of course they take Greek jobs.”

What did they think of Ilias Kasidiaris, their party’s spokesman who hit a female MP on TV? “He’s our best boy.” So they approve of hitting women? “Some of them (male politicians) need it (to express themselves),” said Dimitris.

9.48am: A slightly tangential update here but football fans will know that Greece secured an upset victory over Russia in the European Championships last night taking the team through to the next round at the expense of their more illustrious opponents. Guess who their next opponents are likely to be? I’ll give you a clue, it’s a country also starting with the letter “G”. Lizzy Davies writes:

The victory brought thousands of flag-waving, blue-and-white-clad fans into the streets of Athens. Omonia Square, the capital’s traditional arena of celebration, echoed to the sound of firecrackers, car horns and unprintable chants.

But, as if a big footballing win the night before the country’s most important election in decades was not enough, mischievous destiny had another card up her sleeve. It is very likely that Greece’s next fixture – in the quarter-final – will be against Germany. One of the loudest chants last night concerned Chancellor Merkel, but I won’t repeat it here.

Twitter is now awash with jokes along the lines of this post from @Nndroid: “If Greece get Germany in the quarter-finals, will Angela Merkel try to tell the Greeks how many goals they have to concede?”

9.40am: Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has voted at Kypseli, Athens. And there appears to have been plenty of support from him at the polling station. He said the Greek people people have beaten fear.

Incredible scenes as Tsipras votes in Athens’s Kypseli district. Dozens of TV crews and photographers try to capture moment. #Greece2012

— Kathimerini English(@ekathimerini) June 17, 2012

A bunch of journos shouting “Alexi Alexi” as SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was voting. Ppl gathered chanting “time of Left has come” #rbnews

— spyros gkelis (@northaura) June 17, 2012

SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras voting. “Nothing the same from now on. The time has come for the people to speak,” chants supporter #Greece2012

— Kathimerini English(@ekathimerini) June 17, 2012

Tsipras now “We won the fear. Today we open the road to hope. #Greece goes on united and equal, in a changing Europe” #rbnews #Greece2012

— spyros gkelis (@northaura) June 17, 2012

9.34am: Helena Smith and Daniel Boffey have assessed the likelihood of the various outcomes from today’s election.

They conclude that most probable is a weak pro-Europe government, to which they assign a likelihood of eight out of 10.

Reform-minded “pro-European” forces win power but by a slight margin. A government is formed, but is constantly undermined by anti-bailout far-left Syriza party which becomes bold as opposition grows on the streets. The government falls in the autumn when called to pass further belt-tightening measures. The EU, ECB and IMF are encouraged by some to turn off the cash tap at Greeks’ failure to honour austerity pledges. A possible contagious collapse in confidence across Europe threatens UK with a two-year recession as trade with the continent dries up.

9.27am: Voting is brisk in Kera, on the island of Zakynthos, the Guardian’s Jon Henley reports.

Voting at Kera on Zakynthos in #Greece ‘s rerun: 30% of 400 on electoral roll had voted by 11am #EuroDebtTales…

— jon henley (@jonhenley) June 17, 2012

9.20am: The Guardian’s Lizzy Davies has this update on voting from Athens:

Voting has begun – albeit slowly – in the polling station of Plaka, Athens’s historic district under the Acropolis. Carefully laid out inside a school are leaflets for all the parties – from the centre-right New Democracy (ND) through the Ecologists to what I’m told is an historic coalition of the Marxist-Leninist Communists and the Leninist-Marxist Communists. (There’s a big difference, apparently.) The children at the school are obviously being taught good English because, scrawled on the health and safety poster in the hallway, are the words “Fuck Them”.

Judging by the first trickle of voters, frontrunners ND appeared to be doing well out of Plaka. Dimitris, a dentist, said he thought only they were capable of putting Greece back on the right tracks. “I hope for a government that will restore everything. Everything. I think the Conservative party is the only solution,” he said. An old man, engaged in a lengthy monologue to Greek television, marched over to me and declared: “I am voting for the thieves.” (This is how a lot of Greeks now refer to Antonis Samaras’s party, ND, and their left-wing rivals Pasok.)

Ioanna, a white-haired lady checking for her name on the register, was more muted and said she was feeling “very anxious”. “I want to be in Europe, basically,” she said. “The euro too, but especially I want to be part of the European project.” She refused to say who she was voting for, but her reasoning would point towards another voice for ND.

9.12am: Welcome to live coverage of election day in Greece.

The Greek people are going to the polls in the midst of austerity measures, demanded by the IMF and eurozone in return for bailing out the economy, that have exacted a heavy toll on the country, already the poorest in the eurozone. Unemployment is running at 22% and an estimated one-third of the population live below the poverty line.

The results of the poll are likely to resonate way beyond Greece, with many seeing it as a referendum on the country’s membership of the euro. Some believe the future of the single currency itself is at stake.

This is the second election in just over six weeks after no single party won an outright victory in the first poll, on 6 May, and attempts to form a coalition government ended in failure.

Opinion polls suggest that the two parties that finished first and second respectively in May, the centre-right New Democracy and Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), are running neck-and-neck.

New Democracy basically supports the bailout accord while Syriza opposes the austerity measures agreed with the eurozone and IMF. Its leader Alexis Tsiparis rejects as scaremongering claims that it is determined to exit the eurozone and bring back the drachma. Meanwhile, Greece’s creditors have made it clear that if Athens rescinds the structural reforms seen as vital to kickstarting its moribund economy, further injections of cash will stop, which would force Greece to default and leave the euro.

We will be covering all the latest news as people cast their votes. The Guardian’s Helena Smith and Lizzy Davies will be providing updates from Athens, while Jon Henley will be doing likewise from Zakynthos. The Guardian has also teamed up with Radiobubble, a Greek web radio and online community, which will also be relaying news to the Guardian. Its citizen journalists tweet using the hashtag #rbnews. (You can see their tweets on the right of this page).

Here are some interesting links from the Guardian’s coverage of the run-up to the election.

How austerity measures have pushed health and social services to extremes

Greece’s biggest hospital struggles as austerity cuts bite – video

A week on the streets in Athens – in pictures

• Nick Malkoutzis, deputy editor of Kathimerini English Edition, on the agonising choice faced by Greeks - “tough it out in the euro …or risk it all on a potentially disastrous return to the drachma”

Q&A on Greece and the eurozone crisis with Greek economist Costas Lapavitsas

Profile of Syriza leader Alex Tsiparis

Another link you may find interesting is an English translation of a presentation on Syriza’s economic programme.