Mon, February 20, 2012
World > Europe

Greeks protest austerity, support euro on eve of eurozone bailout meetings

2012-02-19 23:57:54 GMT2012-02-20 07:57:54(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

ATHENS, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Greek citizens took to the streets of Athens once again throughout Sunday, protesting painful austerity on the eve of a crucial eurozone meeting in Brussels that could determine Greece's salvation from financial meltdown in March and its future in the common currency zone.

Demonstrators waving banners in front of the parliament building "against EU and International Monetary Fund", denounced the tough terms of the second international bailout package to stave off a Greek default, ahead of a new eurozone meeting on Monday that could unlock the vital aid.

But at the same time in a vast majority, disgruntled Greeks strongly supported the country's membership in the eurozone, according to a series of opinion polls published in newspapers, acknowledging that outside euro the country would certainly face a devastating bankruptcy, as local analysts noted.

Seven out of 10 respondents in the survey printed in Sunday's Realnews newspaper said they want Greece to stay within the eurozone. Less than half of respondents though believed that Greece will still be a member of the zone by 2015.

Some 95 percent of Greeks polled expressed deep pessimism for the country's future, criticizing the two-year austerity and reform drive underway as a wrong recipe to tackle the debt crisis.

"The mix of policies chosen so far lead Greek society and the country deeper into recession and a vicious circle. We will keep fighting until we overturn them," Stathis Anestis, General Secretary of the umbrella labour union of private sector employees GSEE, said on Sunday noon, addressing a rally in central Athens organized in collaboration with the umbrella union of civil servants ADEDY.

"We are here to stay. Because back home we face bankruptcy already. The endless cutbacks on our income, the prospect of tens of thousands of more unemployed this year who will add to the more than one million jobless in a country with a four-million strong working force, leaves us with no option," construction worker Dionisis Koutsogiorgis told Xinhua on Sunday afternoon, as Left parties members staged a second rally on Syntagma square.

Father of three underage children Koutsogiorgis is jobless for over five months and relies on aid by relatives and friends to make ends meet.

"For how long?" he asked, as the so-called indignant demonstrators who are non-affiliated to political parties, followed later on Sunday evening.

According to the results of polls published in three Sunday newspapers, most Greeks today reject the two major parties that have ruled the country over the past three decades and since November support the interim government of Lucas Papademos.

If general elections were held today, the conservative New Democracy party would garner a 19 percent of votes, while socialist PASOK party would receive 8.2 percent of votes, ranking fifth behind three Left parties. The percentages represent historic lows for the two parties. Pollsters commented that voters seem to "punish" the two parties for their handling of the crisis.

They also noted that apart from opposition Left parties, groups that are not represented in the current assembly, such as ecologists and a far-right party, seem to have gained ground, securing the 3 percent threshold to enter the next chamber.

The biggest winner, according to the surveys, would be abstention. The percentage of people who do not intend to go to the polls, or were still undecided, stood at some 30 percent.

Eight out of 10 respondents said that new parties should be formed to express people. Only two out of 10 would vote for a party led by technocrat transitional Papademos.

Six out of 10 said that snap elections should be held in April, immediately after the conclusion of the Greek debt swap process which is expected to start in coming days, just after EU counterparts clear the second bailout deal to Greece.

The debt-ridden country sealed a new set of additional 3.2 billion euro (4.2 billion U.S. dollars) spending cuts for this year over the past few days under lenders' pressure to secure the fresh 130 billion euro (170.81 billion dollars) bailout package to keep afloat.

Without the new rescue loans package, the second since May 2010, Greece would not be able to cover a 14.5 billion euro (19.05 billion dollars) bond repayment on March 20. A Greek default would hit the entire eurozone.

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