New parties shake up Greek politics

Syriza poster in Athens Syriza poster in Athens: The party rejects the EU's tough bailout terms for Greece

Politics in Greece has never been so unpredictable. That's what happens when you go through years of economic meltdown.

At this weekend's local elections and next weekend's European elections, stand by for some surprises.

What's clear is that the old two-party system that dominated the country for years has collapsed.

Pasok, the socialist party that ran Greece like a family business, is in deep trouble.

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New Democracy, on the centre right, is still doing OK because it's pretty much the only choice the establishment has left.

But beyond that, it's all up for grabs.

Syriza, led by the poster boy of the anti-austerity European Left, Alexis Tsipras, could win these elections. If it does, Mr Tsipras says he'll demand new national elections - he can sense politics moving in his direction.

Can anyone stop him? New Democracy thinks it can.

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But the wild card could be a new pro-EU centre party, To Potami (The River). It was only formed a few weeks ago, but opinion polls suggest it'll take third place.

There have been some mutterings about who is behind To Potami's sudden rise, and it may be a flash in the pan. But its founder, the TV journalist Stavros Theodorakis, says it's simply about people fed up with politics as usual, and determined to change things.

Some of the disaffected voters, though, are heading for the political fringe, and the extreme right will almost certainly enter the next European Parliament.

Golden Dawn, regarded by many here as a neo-Nazi party, looks set to win seats. Many Greeks will be embarrassed, but Golden Dawn supporters won't give a damn.

So Greek politics will be as interesting to watch as ever. Optimists hope the trauma of the last few years will eventually give birth to a cleaner, more accountable political system. But it will be a bumpy ride, and these elections will be an important test.

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