Greek prime minister calls snap election

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has said Greece will call a snap election on May 6.

Story highlights

  • Papademos confirms Greece will hold parliamentary elections May 6
  • Greece can make the difficult decisions needed to confront its debt crisis, he says
  • Greece has been run by an interim coalition government since November
  • The country is struggling in the grip of a debt and austerity crisis

Greece will hold parliamentary elections May 6, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos announced Wednesday.

His televised announcement came after he met with President Karolos Papoulias to ask him to dissolve the current parliament.

Papademos said the past five months had shown that Greece could make the difficult decisions needed to confront its debt crisis and ensure a better future.

The new government, once elected, would have a difficult task ahead of it, he said, as he called for everyone to work together.

Dissolving parliament does not mean dissolving the government, as a number of significant decisions must be made by May 6, Papademos said.

Under the Greek Constitution, there has to be at least a 25-day period between the dissolution of parliament and when elections are held.

Greece, which has been run by an interim coalition government since November, is struggling under the weight of painful austerity measures intended to bring down its huge debt.

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The snap election announcement comes amid collapsing support for the two parties -- New Democracy and PASOK -- which have dominated Greek politics since the fall of the military junta in 1974.

Polls suggest nine parties currently meet the 3% threshold required to enter parliament.

A survey from polling group GPO on Monday gives New Democracy 18.2% of the vote to 14.2% for PASOK, the majority party in the coalition government.

According to the same GPO poll from Monday, nearly a third of the voters questioned either don't intend to vote or haven't decided for whom to vote.

In October 2009, PASOK took 43.9% of the vote in parliamentary elections.

In June, Greece needs to vote through parliament a raft of measures for 2013-2014, including at least 11 billion euros in spending cuts.

Passing more measures -- essential if Greece is to continue receiving money under a bailout deal from the European Union and International Monetary Fund -- is likely to be more difficult in a strongly fragmented parliament, especially as many of the smaller parties that are likely to enter the legislature oppose the bailout.

Greece, which is at the center of Europe's debt crisis, is battling to stay afloat in the face of an unsustainable level of debt and an economy that has been in recession for years.

Under its second bailout program, approved this year, Greece has agreed to implement a series of austerity measures and undertake broader reforms to make its economy more competitive, including pay cuts, layoffs and pension reforms

Those cuts come on top of measures brought in after the first bailout in 2010.

Greece had the greatest increase in its unemployment rate of all the European Union countries last year, climbing from 14.3% in December 2010 to 21% a year later, according to figures from Eurostat, the European Union statistics office.