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Greeks Shun Mainstream Politics Without Great Alternatives


Greeks head to the polls later this month for an election that could decide the country's future in the Eurozone. Many voters are shunning mainstream politicians, whom they blame for bankrupting Greece, and then subjecting it to years of austerity. But voters are often not excited about the alternatives to the mainstream. Joanna Kakissis has the story from Athens.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Megakles Rogakos and Antigone Nounou spend many nights after dinner talking about this month's elections. The couple - he's an art historian, and she's a researcher - are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Rogakos is a conservative, who's always voted for New Democracy, the party of the current Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras. Rogakos is one of those rare Greeks who welcomed the European Union's intervention when Greece went bankrupt and had to ask for billions in bailout loans.

MEGAKLES ROGAKOS: I'm very supportive of foreign voices from Europe advising Greece what to do and how to move on. But it's really the job of the everyday government to implement these advices. And they are doing a terrible job.

KAKISSIS: He says the government was too scared to implement reforms that would have created jobs and lured investors to Greece. It paid lenders only by chopping spending, public salaries, pensions. Now more than a quarter of Greeks have lost their jobs, including Rogakos.

ROGAKOS: Had we been more careful, we would have seen development. We would have seen, you know, light at the end of the tunnel. But things are growing gloomier and gloomier.

KAKISSIS: So now Rogakos has no idea whom to vote for - maybe nobody. There are many Greeks like him. Polls show that at least 15 percent of voters are undecided. Yannis Palaiologos, who's written a book dissecting the Greek crisis, says many voters believe no one can save Greece.

YANNIS PALAIOLOGOS: We have very large numbers of people who don't have access to health care. We have a real social catastrophe on our hands. So there's suddenly a large part of the population that does feel that they have nothing to lose.

KAKISSIS: Nounou, Rogakos' partner, also feels like she has nothing to lose. She says her politics lean to the left, but she doesn't trust Syriza, the leftist party that's leading in polls.

ANTIGONE NOUNOU: I never was convinced by the party rhetoric and the party politics as well.

KAKISSIS: The party has promised to give public sector jobs back to Greeks, even increase salaries. She wouldn't mind that last bit. Her salary as a university researcher has been drastically cut since the crisis. But Greece doesn't have any money, she says. She's fed up with politicians...

NOUNOU: Who don't have the guts, who don't have the courage to actually do what needs to be done, regardless of what the cost is for them personally, as politicians, as professional politicians.

KAKISSIS: She says she will likely decide on the day of the election who to vote for. But like most Greeks, she doesn't believe her vote will make a difference. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.