rebel shakes up post-crisis Greece election
Yorgos Karahalis / Reuters
Leader of the Independent Greeks party Panos Kammenos addresses supporters during a pre-election rally in Athens May 4, 2012.
ATHENS – Conservative rebel Panos Kammenos has stormed out of nowhere to torpedo his old party’s chances of winning outright victory in Sunday’s Greek election and put himself in a strong position to be a power broker after the vote.
Kammenos splintered from the main conservative party New Democracy in February when he launched the Independent Greeks movement. It is riding a wave of popular discontent against austerity policies demanded by international lenders.
The Independent Greeks have soared to 11 percent in opinion polls, upsetting the traditional balance of Greek politics and probably forcing conservative New Democracy to seek coalition partners even if it wins the largest slice of Sunday’s vote, as expected.
Sunday’s voting could reignite Europe’s debt crisis and renew doubts about the country’s future in the euro zone.
At stake in the first general election since the debt crisis exploded at the end of 2009 is whether Greece sticks to the terms of deeply unpopular EU/IMF bailouts which saved it from bankruptcy but propelled it into a deep, protracted recession.
Opinion polls show voters hit by record unemployment and steep wage cuts will send to parliament an unprecedented number of small parties opposed to the austerity and punish New Democracy and the Socialist PASOK – the two parties who have ruled Greece for decades and the only major ones backing the bailouts.
Polling stations opened at 11 p.m. ET across Greece and will close at 12 p.m. ET, with many voters making up their mind at the last minute.
A rotund, outspoken and short-tempered career politician who will turn 47 next week, Kammenos is a formidable campaigner known for his fiery anti-German rhetoric and take-no-prisoners approach to opponents.
He studied business management and psychology in France and Switzerland and has been a lawmaker since 1993, representing Athens’ second electoral constituency where his father ran an auto dealership. He gave up the family business to dedicate himself to politics.
Kammenos quit New
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