“The most important index is happiness, not money,” businessman Pedros Koroneos says with a smile as he watches two young women alight from a taxi on a sunny May morning in Athens.

But the 39-year-old's happy-go-lucky demeanour and Kolonaki's boutiques belie the reality of a country staring into the abyss as it goes to the polls on Sunday.

In fact Greece is broke. To avoid bankruptcy it has been forced to secure two international bailouts worth a total of €240 billions ($314.0 billion), it is in its fifth year of recession and one in five workers is unemployed.

The price for Greek people has been enormous, and if the EU, IMF and two main parties that have alternated in power since the end of the military junta in 1974 have their way, they will continue paying for many years to come. Even in Kolonaki, they have felt the pinch.

“Wages are half what they used to be, so people are spending half of what they used to, so right now turnover is down 50 per cent,” Panos Ioannidis (41), owner of an upmarket 112-year-old flower shop, told AFP.

Voters are very angry at the political elite they say has brought the country to its knees after decades of economic mismanagement, corruption and cronyism.

On Sunday, opinion polls suggested, many voters will shun the two main parties, the left-wing Pasok and New Democracy, and support instead a potpourri of around 30 other parties spanning every conceivable ideology.

The extremes include unreconstructed Communists who never broke with Moscow, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn that wants to mine the Turkish border again to keep immigrants out, and the misleadingly named Greek Ecologists, who are pro-nudism.

Many of these smaller parties want to tear up the country's agreements with the troika of the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank that bailed Greece out.

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