May Day rallies across Europe protest austerity

The demonstrations are especially significant in France and Greece, where people are to elect their leaders.

Zeenews Bureau

Athens: Workers across Europe thronged May Day rallies on Tuesday, protesting against austerity measures adopted in their countries.

The demonstrations are especially significant in France and Greece, where people are to elect their leaders and translate their anger into votes.

In France, where a runoff Presidential election is scheduled on May 6, the rivals Nicholas Sarkozy and the socialist Francois Hollande battled it out by addressing May Day rallies.

Nicholas Sarkozy staged a huge election rally trying to woo far right voters. Sarkozy addressed a cheering crowd in Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower at Trocadero.

"I say this to the unions. Put down the red flag and serve France!" Sarkozy declared, as supporters waved France`s tricolour banner.

Hollande, who campaigned outside Paris, attacked Sarkozy by saying he was trying to divide France. Hollande, who according to the polls, is slated to win the runoff, said he hoped to be successor to France`s last Socialist president Francois Mitterrand.

Greece will vote on Sunday in a parliamentary election that risks derailing the international bailout keeping the country afloat by punishing the parties that backed the package.

The two biggest Greek parties, the Socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy, are expected to struggle to win enough support to renew their pro-bailout coalition.

Repeated rounds of cuts have slashed wages and pensions and deepened a recession that is now in its fifth year. Private sector wages shrunk by a quarter last year alone and one Greek youth in two is out of work.

"These politicians cannot help us. They have nothing new to tell us. They approved the austerity package and the bailout. We are turning our backs on them," said Dina Bitsi, 58, a pensioner with two unemployed sons.

Italian demonstrators briefly clashed with police in riot gear in Turin and thousands marched in the central city of Rieti to listen to the leaders of the country`s three main unions denounce Prime Minister Mario Monti`s reforms.

In Madrid, tens of thousands headed in the rain to the main square waving signs opposing government cuts while in Athens around 5,000 workers, pensioners and students marched with banners reading "Revolt now" and "Tax the rich".

"There`s no way I`m voting for one of the two main parties."

March against Austerity

The May Day marches come at a time when nations, especially the fiscally conservative euro zone members are pushing for austerity of which the common population is highly frustrated.

Nations believe, the austerity cuts will help them sail through debt crisis and meet EU limits but the surging unemployment has proved to be disastrous for people.

In Italy there are frequent reports of suicides as people lose their jobs or their businesses fail.

A right-wing group in the northern Emilia-Romagna region plastered posters outside several cemeteries reading "Happy May Day, workers who have committed suicide".

Protesters in Turin shouted down the local mayor as he was leading a parade, accusing him of not doing enough to create jobs in the city that is the home of Italian car giant FIAT.

In Portugal, the two main labor unions expect tens of thousands of workers to join rallies in the capital Lisbon and other main cities.

Portugal is implementing tough austerity measures, which have deepened its recession and pushed unemployment to all-time highs of around 15 percent.

With agencies` inputs