It's now just after 5pm here in Greece and within a couple of hours the voting will have finished and the first exit polls will be published. unlike many other elections the outcome of today's vote is far from clear. The largest party is most likely to be the conservative New Democracy with about 20-25%, followed by PASOK with 10-15% (the numbers are necessarily vague, a product of wildly differing opinion poll results). This is in sharp contrast to the 2009 national elections in which these two parties got the lion share of the vote with 78% combined, reflecting the stranglehold they have had over power since the late 70's.
However, beyond these two predictions not much else can be said for the possible make up of a future Greek government. The ECB, EU and IMF are all banking on these two parties being able to scrape together a majority in parliament in order to continue with the latest round of austerity measures scheduled for June and July. The leaders of PASOK and New Democracy, while swearing blind to the contrary are both hoping their electoral base will have held firm enough to give them a place in a coalition government and so avoid bloody internal conflict involving both backbenchers and rank and file party members. Both Venizelos and Samaras are by no means loved universally loved by their own supporters and a failure to get into power would open up still raw wounds .
On the other hand many other smaller parties are picking up support from disgruntled ND/PASOK voters and that is really the joker in the pack, threatening to overturn the political status quo that was created in the aftermath of the fall of brutal Regime of the Colonels in 1974. Some parties such as the rightist Independent Greeks are new creations whilst others such as the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn have a longer, if more savage lineage, either way they are attracting votes at a rate that would have been inconceivable even a couple of years ago.
On the left of the spectrum the old school communist party KKE has gained ground as have other leftist parties such as The Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the newly minted Democratic Left with some estimates saying their combined share of the vote may pass 40%.The one thing that unites such disparate groups is their opposition to the austerity package imposed by Greece's creditors, however what else could possibly bring them together remains a mystery.
I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and say that I believe that the polls will produce a three party coalition government including PASOK, New Democracy and possibly Independent Greeks party. I base this prediction on nothing more scientific than a hunch and past experience of Greek politics (though give the sweeping changes going through the system that may not be the best guide). the thing to remember when analysing politics here is that ideological labels often count for little when power is concerned and so a coalition will be based on mutually aligned interests rather than political overlap.
If such an alliance does take power I believe that it is destined to fall apart as the political cost of yet more job cuts and tax hikes takes its toll. So quite possibly Greece will be going to the polls once more before September.