Campaigning ahead of Greece’s national elections Sunday ends Friday, leaving at least 17% of voters undecided. Gallup polls predict a tight race, with Greece’s largely disaffected youth holding the key to the outcome. VOA looks back on the monthlong campaign and the unprecedented scramble by political leaders for those votes.
At the age of 17 and a junior in high school, Evelina Androulaki says, she is ready to cast her vote for the first time.
We have had heated talks at home, and I have decided on the party I will vote for Androulaki says.
While she refuses to divulge her choice, Androulaki is the exception.
Sunday’s vote will see about 500,000 young voters aged between 17 and 20, taking their first trip to the ballot box.
And while opinion polls show incumbent, conservative prime minister Kyriakos Mistotakis winning the race, a close, second-place finish by his main leftist rival, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Syriza party, may push the country into a period of political uncertainty, with repeated rounds of elections until a majority or coalition government is formed.
The uncertain outcome has both top contenders actively pursuing young voters, hoping to sway them to tip the scales in their favor.
To that end, both contenders have brushed aside traditional modes of campaigning, resorting to TikTok videos instead, speaking to popular bloggers, featuring on YouTube and engaging in more relaxed interviews, showing a fuzzy and appealing side of themselves.
Winning over Greece’s youth is a challenge. Analysts say younger voters must be convinced not just informed, as political analyst Vangelis Papadimitriou explains.
This is a generation that has largely been ignored, he says. They feel the entire political establishment has turned its back on them. As a result of the social and financial upheaval that has gripped the country, Greece’s youth lack a vision for the future, he says.
Greece’s economy is forecast to grow by over 2% this year and unemployment has eased to around 10%. However, 1 in 4 young workers remain jobless, more than double the European Union average.
Mitsotakis rose to power four years ago, promising to bring back a flood of young Greeks who had fled the country in the wake of a brutal recession. Most though have stayed away, with many still aching to flee.
To stop the exodus, Mitsotskis is now promising to hike minimum monthly salaries to around $1,600. He promises significant tax breaks and even $200 vacation bonuses for those who turn 18.
Tspiras, however, dominates the young vote. And while his promises of higher wages, lower prices and an end to extremely competitive university entry exams sound appealing, a large chunk of Greek youth vote remain unconvinced, according to opinion polls.
The key, he says, is to get them to vote. If they do, the Syriza party is bound to win.