Earlier this week, Greeks headed to the polls for the third time this year. The quick election was called after recently elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras abruptly resigned. His resignation came after nearly one third of the 149 MPs in Tsiprasâ€™ leftist Syriza party refused to back him and the controversial rescue he had approved. Tsiprasâ€™ untimely resignation triggered the fifth general election in Greece in six years.
Although voter turnout was at a record low, Tsipras was able to win 35 percent of the vote and become Prime Minister again. The results give the Syriza party 145 seats in the 300-seat parliament. A smaller nationalist party also joined the Syriza coalition, solidifying Tsiprasâ€™ power and securing close to an absolute majority in the Greek Parliament. Turnout was 56.5 percent, a clear drop from the 64 percent in the January election. Itâ€™s an indication of an exhausted public that only wants relief from tough economic circumstances.
The election win gives Tsipras a mandate to drive through unpopular reforms he agreed to under an austerity deal struck with international creditors. Ironically, it was that deal that forced the election. The EU and creditors will be paying special attention to ensure Greece sticks to the austerity measures Tsipras has agreed to but publically denounced. The new government must also finalize a procedure to recapitalize Greek banks by December. This is because new EU-wide bank rescue regulations that could impact on depositors and further complicate Greeceâ€™s financial woes come into play in 2016.
Greek officials also have to begin working on a plan and strategy to deal with the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees who are flooding the EU. Itâ€™s estimated that more than 30,000 refugees have come to Greece in the last year. The influx of refugees is further stretching Greeceâ€™s beleaguered resources. Officials appealed to the EU earlier this year for assistance in dealing with the hordes of migrants. But, with the rest of the EU facing their own immigration influxes, it is unclear who will be able to step up and assist Greece.
Despite living in cities all over the world, the Greek diaspora is actively engaged in the events that are happening in their homeland. Nick Papapanos, a business executive living in Montreal, Canada, is very active in his local Hellenic community and is up-to-date on the latest political and financial news in Greece.
â€œItâ€™s a really hard time for Greece,â€ said Papapanos. â€œThe political unrest, the increase in refugees and close scrutiny of the EU are creating a particularly tense situation.â€
Greeks have been living in a precarious situation since 2010, when their country teetered near bankruptcy. â€œPeople are fed up,â€ Montrealâ€™s Nick Papapanos added. â€œOver the summer, it looked like there wasnâ€™t much hope in sight.â€
However, optimism has been restored in a majority of Greeks living at home and abroad when Tsipras was re-elected over the weekend. â€œNow we really need to get down to business and work at restoring the Greek economy,â€ Papapanos said.
Evi Pappa, a popular Greek radio show host, believes this could be a time for Greece to get creative. Pappa also thinks Tsipras should focus on attracting foreign direct investment, because that will creates jobs. â€œThose investments could go into tourism in the short run, and later on into energy sources like solar power,â€ she added. â€œWe could make Greece a Florida of Europe and attract investments like retirement homes, etc.â€
Greece’s new parliament is expected to reconvene on October 1st this year. Lawmakers will have to revise the 2015 budget, taking into account pension and income tax reforms. This includes taxes on farmers’ income that are set to double by 2017.