May 26 - The leader of Greece's conservative New Democracy party says a vote for his party is a vote for Greece staying in the euro zone. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Hotel workers take to the streets in Athens, as they stage a 24 hour strike. They are protesting against labor reforms ahead of new elections whose central theme continues to be deeper austerity. The June 17th run off election has pitched parties against each other over the economic reforms that have slashed wages, jobs, pensions and benefits while increasing taxes. The reforms are aimed at reducing the country's debt and are needed in order for Greece to be given aid by the European Union and IMF. Greek conservative New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras is warning that a vote for the radical left will drive Greece out of the euro zone and into poverty. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) NEW DEMOCRACY PARTY LEADER, ANTONIS SAMARAS, SAYING: "If Greece condemns the bailout agreement, it will remain isolated internationally for many years, and will be exploited by many from every direction. There will be no food, no medicines or petrol, at night we will live in a continuous blackout, and our social cohesion will be torn apart." His comments come as a new poll Saturday shows New Democracy, which backs the international bailout, having a slight lead over the leftist opponent which opposes it. Many are fed up with austerity. IMF Chief Christine Lagarde added fuel to their anger when she criticized Greeks for not paying taxes. When Lagarde was asked by Britains Guardian Newspaper, what she thinks about social service cuts in Greece she said, quote "I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens." One woman would like the IMF chief to come to Greece and see what it is like. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) KAITI LIANOU, 66, PENSIONER, SAYING: "Ms. Lagarde needs to come visit the people, and not the politicians, so she can see whether we are hungry, how often we work, and what we have paid the state. Because when my husband has worked for 40 years and paid his dues he has the right to a decent pension, it should not be cut. And they should not be increasing our taxes when we cannot pay them with the pensions we receive." Polls show an overwhelming majority of Greeks want to stay in the euro zone. But they also show two thirds oppose the austerity measures agreed to for the bailout. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters