Q&A: Greek parliamentary election

A woman walks by pre-election posters of Greek socialist party leader Evangelos Venizelos
Image caption Election posters for the Greek socialist party in Athens

On 17 June, Greece will hold its second parliamentary election in just over a month. The result is being closely watched amid fears it could lead to a severe deepening of the eurozone crisis, and a break-up of the euro.

Why is there a second round?

The first, inconclusive vote in May failed to produce an outright winner.

Voters shied away from the country's two mainstream parties, the conservative New Democracy and the socialist Pasok, with many opting for the radical left Syriza and the extreme right Golden Dawn. Both oppose the deep spending cuts the previous government in Athens has imposed in return for an international bailout package.

Why is the election important?

The government that emerges will have to decide whether to accept the conditions of the country's bailout, and all the conditions that go with it. The austerity programme has involved drastic cuts to wages, pensions and public-sector jobs.

If voters go for radical parties, they might decide to abandon the bailout deal. European leaders have warned this would be tantamount to walking out of the eurozone. Without Greece's commitment to tough deficit cutting measures, the EU and IMF could refuse to release the rest of the rescue funds. That would leave Greece unable to service its debts or pay public employees. Most analysts believe in such a default scenario, Greece would have to leave the euro - though there is no established mechanism for doing so. The fear then would be that investor losses and shattered market confidence could increase the pressure on debt-stricken Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Image caption Alexis Tsipras leads the anti-austerity SYRIZA party

Who are the parties?

They range from the established mainstream parties - the conservative New Democracy and the socialist Pasok - to the radical left Syriza and the far-right Golden Dawn. Pasok and New Democracy signed up to the bailout, but are likely to argue for its renegotiation if they win election. Most of the other parties reject the bailout altogether, but say they want to stay in the euro.

What is the electoral system?

Greece has a one-chamber parliament (Vouli ton Ellinon) with 300 seats.

Voters elect 288 MPs through a proportional representation system from 56 single- and multi-seat constituencies, and 12 state deputies from one multi-seat nationwide constituency. Greek MPs serve a four-year term.

Under current electoral law, parties need to clear a 3% national threshold. The political force which garners the most votes is awarded 50 extra seats. The rest of the seats are distributed proportionally among all parties which reach the threshold. The 12 state deputy seats are allocated proportionally from closed lists in a nationwide district.

What do opinion polls say?

No single party is likely to win a majority or an overwhelming proportion of the votes on 17 June.

Surveys show the pro-bailout New Democracy party neck-and-neck with the anti-austerity far-left Syriza, with socialist Pasok in third place.

Polls suggest most Greeks want to abandon the bailout conditions; but an overwhelming majority want to keep the euro. EU leaders have warned they cannot have both.

If the prediction of fractured voters' preferences is right, then Greece could go through another cycle of indecisive party talks to form a governing alliance, similar to the one that followed parliamentary elections in May.

What are the possible outcomes?

One of the worst scenarios would be if Greece ends up with a hung parliament and a lack of agreement to create a new coalition. This would mean a new, third round of elections in autumn, continuing political uncertainty and lack of access to crucial funds from the international bailout package.

If anti-austerity parties manage to form a cabinet led by Syriza, the new government may refuse to honour the cost-cutting measures its predecessor agreed with Brussels. Greece could find itself out of the eurozone and reintroducing the drachma. Analysts predict a dramatic devaluation of the new currency, accompanied by rapid inflation and business failures. However, some think this would give Greece the chance to rebuild its economy from a position of greater competitiveness.

Another option would be a coalition between New Democracy and Pasok. In order to have a majority, however, they would probably need the support of a third partner. Opinion polls make the Democratic Left a probable choice. The party does not agree with the far left's refusal to compromise on the debt deal.

This seemingly unlikely alliance of left and right political parties in Greece could be forged under pressure to secure vital European financial support. A New Democracy-Pasok government also seems to be the preferred choice of Brussels, as the two parties were the ones who arranged the EU bailout deal in the first place. This would also put them in a better position to try to renegotiate some of the terms of the loan agreement - something that could also appeal to Greek voters.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here