Greek voters push back against cost of austerity
Angry electorate feels caught in a tightening vise of economic forces
BY RACHEL DONADIO
AND NIKI KITSANTONIS
As she flipped through a political magazine in a cafe near the Acropolis Museum, Evi Simopoulou did not mince words.‘‘I hate this government,’’ she said.‘‘This is not a Socialist government.’’
Once a staunch supporter of the governing Socialist Party, Ms. Simopoulou said she was voting against it in the Sunday regional elections, which Prime Minister George Papandreou cast as a referendum on the austerity measures adopted as a condition of a $150 billion rescue package.
Why should everyone suffer, Ms.Simopoulou reasoned, for the government’s failures? ‘‘We didn’t eat the money,’’ she said.‘‘They ate the money.’’
As the international-minded Mr.Papandreou struggles to convince the world that he has what it takes to push through changes to keep Greece competitive and the euro strong, there is one main obstacle in his path: Greeks.
Although he has so far stayed the course, many are furious about the changes, which have raised taxes,lowered salaries and left them with a pervasive feeling that they are caught in the cogs of larger economic forces. Their anger has spilled over into waves of street protests in which three people have died.
Last week, a series of letter bombs allegedly sent to European leaders by young anarchists compounded the government’s troubles, renewing fears of a return of domestic terrorism.Mr. Papandreou, who was elected a
year ago on a platform of increased social spending, is caught in the middle.
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