GREECE faces a hotly contested parliamentary election Sunday after the collapse of its coalition government last month. The elections are being fiercely fought among the conservative New Democracy Party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), and a leftist alliance known as the Coalition of the Left and Progress. These parties have accounted for about 93 percent of the popular vote in the past.
If a parliamentary majority does not emerge, Greece could face another coalition government. Since the nation does not have a history of successful coalition governments, many political analysts here predict that a coalition would collapse, thus requiring a new poll in March 1990, at the time of the presidential vote.
If the New Democracy Party manages to form a majority, politicians and observers believe it will be dangerously close to the minimum 151-seat majority needed in the 300-seat Parliament.
``This will be an election of arithmetic,'' says a noted political observer here. ``And the arithmetic will be very, very tight.''
Greece's latest failed coalition, between the conservative New Democracy and the Communist-led Coalition of the Left and Progress, was formed following inconclusive parliamentary elections in June. The new leadership succeeded in its goal of bringing corruption charges against the former government of Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, which had been implicated in banking, bribery, and wire-tapping scandals. But the coalition resigned Oct. 7, saying its mission to clean up Greek politics had been accomplished, and a caretaker administration has governed since then.
Even so, recent public opinion polls show that support for New Democracy remains fairly stable, and could rise by as much as 1.5 percent from its 44.4 percent of the popular vote in June. Pasok could gain or lose a point from its former 39.1 percent. Support for the leftist alliance, the only clear loser, will likely drop by as much as 2.5 percent from 13.1 percent in June, following dissatisfaction of the pro-Moscow communists over alliance with Eurocommunists. New Democracy, primarily an urban pro-business party, has targeted powerful single-seat districts on islands and 15 ``swing'' districts in the countryside that it lost in June, in some cases by razor-thin margins.
Any coalition would have to be formed between at least two of the three main political forces.
Some analysts cannot imagine any of them cooperating for any length of time. ``A coalition government would not be able to tackle the hot [national] issues,'' says Andreas Andrianopoulos, a leading conservative spokesman.
Other analysts, however, argue a coalition government could work this time. ``The parties will cooperate,'' says Panayiotes Dimitras, a top Athens public opinion pollster. ``They don't have the big differences they had.''
A new coalition, he adds, would have to institute a system of checks and balances that doesn't exist now. And it could begin to make Greece more Western and European as the single market of 1992 approaches. Because of the country's political uncertainty, Greek businesses have halted new investment, at a time when much of Europe is gearing up for competition in 1992. But Mr. Dimitras warns that ``you don't throw off overnight oriental and third-world tendencies and become European. It's a process.''
Over the months of temporary government, decisions on major issues have been in abeyance. These include conclusion of an accord governing United States operation of four bases in Greece and extradition of alleged Palestinian terrorist Muhammed Rashid, who is wanted in the US in connection with airline bombings in 1982 and 1985.
New Democracy leader Constantine Mitsotakis promises, if elected, to try to conclude ``shortly'' a bases accord that could last eight years. He also supports extradition of Mr. Rashid. The other two major contenders oppose these positions.