IMF avoids comment on Greek electionsThursday 14 June 2012 16.59
The International Monetary Fund held off today from commenting on Greece's upcoming election.
This is despite the fact that its own huge €29 billion rescue loan programme for the country could be disrupted by the results.
Greek voters go to the polls for the second time in six weeks in three days, with the electorate split over the choices of sticking with the tough EU-IMF bailout or possibly giving it up and leaving the euro zone.
But the IMF took a wait-and-see approach to the prospects today.
"I think we need to take this one step at a time," said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice, pressed by journalists for a prediction of what will happen after the Greeks vote on Sunday.
"I think we should respect the democratic process in Greece and once there is a new government, the IMF will engage in a new dialogue with the new government," he said.
Polls show Greek voters split between supporting pro-bailout parties and the leftist Syriza party which wants to renegotiate the €130 billion March deal with the IMF and European Union, wielding the threat to repudiate it completely.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, seen as a likely winner in Sunday's elections, has set himself a 10-day deadline to renegotiate the bailout programme, which he claims is killing the country's weakened economy. If the rescue deal fails Greece could end up defaulting on its massive debts and being forced to drop the euro currency
Greek unemployment rate jumps to 22.6%
Greece's jobless rate jumped to 22.6% in the first quarter, with over a million people unemployed.
The state statistics agency said over 1.12 million people were unemployed, with over 222,000 losing their jobs in the past year.
The jobless rate in the previous quarter was 20.7%, the agency said.
Over half of those aged up to 24, 52.7%, and women are the hardest hit by a recession now in its fifth year.
Greeks on Sunday will decide on a government that will seek to revise a EU-IMF bailout deal tied to austerity measures that are seen to have exacerbated the recession.
Among the two frontrunners, the conservative New Democracy party wants to renegotiate parts of the deal to boost growth, while the radical leftist Syriza party plans to scrap the agreement altogether -- including many of its reforms -- and start from scratch.
European leaders have warned Greece that further loans vital to its economy will be halted if the reforms falter.