ATHENS // Greeks angered by a vicious and protracted financial crisis punished their two main parties in national elections yesterday, with exit polls projecting no outright winner and no party gaining enough votes to form a government.
The conservative New Democracy party appeared the most likely to win the top spot, while the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn seemed set to gain parliamentary seats for the first time. Days of talks are likely to ensue as parties attempt to hammer out a governing coalition.
The election will determine the country's course after years of austerity measures that have outraged voters but which were critical in convincing international creditors to extend Greece billions in loans to keep its debt-saddled economy afloat.
According to the exit poll commissioned by four major television stations, New Democracy was projected to win between 17 per cent and 20 per cent of the vote, the formerly majority Pasok socialists between 14 per cent and 17 per cent, and the left-wing Radical Left Coalition, or Syriza, between 15.5 per cent and 18.5 per cent.
The outgoing governing coalition consisted of Pasok and New Democracy. However, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras had insisted before the election that he would not form another coalition with his socialist rivals, saying such a prospect would require too much haggling to be effective.
ROME // Italians voted in local elections yesterday seen as a test of the country's political mood nearly six months after Prime Minister Mario Monti's government took over and imposed a biting austerity programme.
Some 9.5 million Italians are voting for mayors and council members in 944 towns. The voting continues today.
The vote is the first since the fall of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in November and the ensuing adoption of austerity measures, as well as the resignation of Umberto Bossi as head of Italy's Northern League political party amid corruption allegations.
BELGRADE // Serbians voted yesterday for a new president and parliament in polls pitting pro-EU President Boris Tadic against nationalist Tomislav Nikolic amid grinding economic woes.
The elections are seen as a turning point for Serbia because for the first time in almost two decades they are focused on bread-and-butter issues like jobs and living standards rather than the wars that made the Balkan country an international pariah.
Surveys have put Mr Tadic and Mr Nikolic neck-and-neck in the presidential race, and their parties are also running close in the parliamentary elections with surveys giving them about 30 per cent of the vote each.
YEREVAN // Armenia's governing party looked set to win parliamentary polls yesterday in the biggest test of the country's fragile democracy since disputed leadership elections in 2008 ended in fatal clashes. An exit poll suggested that President Serzh Sarkisian's governing Republican party had won 44.4 per cent of the vote with its outgoing parliamentary coalition partner, while the Prosperous Armenia party led by a millionaire former arm wrestling champion took 28.8 per cent.
However pollster Gallup International Association warned that the figures may not be entirely accurate because some 40 per cent of the 20,000 voters surveyed refused to answer and some bloggers questioned their credibility.
The authorities had promised an unprecedentedly clean contest for the 131-seat National Assembly in the hope of avoiding any turmoil after battles between riot police and opposition supporters four years ago left 10 people dead.
BERLIN // Exit polls in Germany show that voters in the country's northernmost state have likely ousted a governing centre-right government made up of the same parties as Chancellor Angela Merkel's federal coalition.
An exit poll late yesterday for Germany's public broadcaster ARD says the conservative Christian Democrats secured 30.5 per cent and their coalition partner, the Free Democrats, slid to 8.5 per cent in Schleswig-Holstein state. It says the opposition Social Democrats got 29.5 per cent of the vote, the Greens 14 per cent and the upstart Pirates party achieved seats in the legislature for the first time with 8 per cent. A party representing the Danish minority secured 4.5 per cent.
While the opposition failed to secure an outright majority, the Social Democrats could form a coalition government with the Greens and the party of the Danish minority.