• Syriza posters: Greek voters have rounded against austerity-imposed reforms (Photo: Asne Hagen)

Greek far-left in election lead

19.05.14 @ 09:29

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
  2. Nikolaj email
  3. Nikolaj Twitter

BRUSSELS - The radical-left Syriza party is ahead in the first round of voting in Greek local elections on Sunday (18 May), while exit polls suggest a boost for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in some areas.

Syriza is set to take Athens and the surrounding Attica region away from the ruling coalition of the conservative New Democracy and its socialist partner, Pasok.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' conservative-led coalition came to power two years ago to steer Greece out of its debt-ridden crisis.

But austerity measures imposed by the troika of international creditors on Greece, and then implemented by Samaras, led to rocketing unemployment and a 40 percent drop in purchasing power since the start of the crisis four years ago.

Jobless rates published earlier last month show more Greeks are out of work compared to last year.

Around 3 million eligible voters out of a total population of 10 million reside in Athens and Attica region.

Syriza’s gains in the first round are seen as a major blow to ruling coalition party.

Together, the New Democracy and Pasok maintain a slim two-seat majority in the parliament.

The Wall Street Journal reports it will be the first time in almost 40 years that a New Democracy candidate will not be in the second round in Athens.

“It is a punishment vote and reflects the internal divisions within the ruling parties,” Constantinos Routzounis, head of Kapa Research, told Reuters.

"The following Sunday, we will see whether this vote has a deeper political significance," he said.

Golden Dawn

In a further blow to Prime Minister Samaras, the Guardian newspaper reports neo-Nazi Golden Dawn candidate for Athens' mayor could come in third with 15.5 percent of the votes.

Their candidate for prefect in Attica obtained around 10 percent of the votes.

Despite being under investigation for its criminal activities, Golden Dawn attracts voters because it is seen as reaching out to those most affected by the crisis.

“Everyone I know is voting for Golden Dawn because they are starving and jobless,” a Greek voter told the Guardian.

All 18 of its MPs are being charged with leading and operating a criminal organisation. Six are imprisoned and awaiting trials for their alleged roles in murder, extortion, and arson.

Voters will return to the ballots for a second round next weekend where they will also decide who to send to the European Parliament.