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Alexis Tsipras, opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party, and his party’s lawmakers applaud after the last round of a presidential vote in Athens Dec. 29, 2014.ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS/Reuters

Haven't we seen this movie before? Greek politicians bicker, Greek shares plunge, yields on Greek debt jump.

It all sounds eerily reminiscent of everyone's favourite financial horror show from four years ago. However, this sequel is likely to feature surprising plot twists not seen in the first version.

While Eurocrisis 2011 showed what happens when investors begin to doubt the ability of a few nations on Europe's periphery to meet their debt obligations, Eurocrisis 2015 will centre on voters' growing skepticism about the economic strategy being followed by the entire European Union.

There's good reason for that skepticism. The continent's recovery from the financial crisis has been a grinding, slow motion flop. Six years after the global meltdown, unemployment in the euro zone still towers around 11.5 per cent. Most countries in the currency union – even Germany, the industrial leader – are struggling to produce any growth at all. Inflation is tumbling because of lack of demand, and official policy remains wedded to the idea that austerity – some day, somehow – will set the stage for an eventual rebound.

The pledge in 2012 by the European Central Bank to do "whatever it takes" to preserve the euro has calmed nervous investors, but it has meant little or nothing to the 18 million ordinary folk in the euro zone who are out of a job. However, this year many of those people, as well as other Europeans, have a chance to voice their discontent as Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Portugal, the U.K and now Greece hold parliamentary elections.

Greeks, who have seen their economy shrink by roughly 30 per cent since the financial crisis, will be first up. The failure of the Greek parliament to elect a new president on Monday has triggered a snap general election, probably on Jan. 25. The vote could result in Syriza, an anti-austerity party, taking power and forcing a showdown with international lenders.

Unlike in 2011, the immediate impact of such a clash is limited. Greece's massive debt has been restructured and any spillover from its financial woes has been limited by programs put into place by the ECB.

As a result, the continent's debt markets reacted with a giant yawn to the latest Greek crisis on Monday, with bond yields only inching upward in other financially challenged countries such as Italy and Spain. Outside of Greece and Portugal, major European governments can still borrow money for a decade for under 2 per cent a year.

But Greece's latest political upheaval still matters, because it provides a window on the extent of popular frustration with the European Union. Greece's current coalition government has been implementing the radical austerity program demanded by the European Commission and the European Central Bank, including tax hikes and pension cuts. Despite that – or perhaps, because of that – the country's unemployment rate remains above 25 per cent.

Surprisingly, though, polls have shown that most Greeks want to remain in the euro zone and even the supposed far-left radicals at the helm of Syriza no longer talk of bolting from the currency bloc. Instead, they want to negotiate an easing of the austerity program, increase public spending, reverse some recent privatizations and convince lenders to forgive part of the country's debt.

Across Europe, a host of other populist upstart parties are also howling for change. Many have emerged from nowhere to become serious political threats. Some, like Podemos in Spain, urge leftist policies such as big hikes in public spending and minimum wages. Others, such as Britain's UKIP and the Sweden Democrats, are right wing and want to crack down on immigration in hopes that fewer foreigners will mean more jobs for locals.

All of these parties are, to some degree, euroskeptics and want the existing system changed. If they continue to make inroads in polls and at this year's elections, the pressure will be on the continent's establishment to prove it's not as aloof and out of touch as it has appeared in recent years.

Greece's election could mark the beginning of a new stage in Europe's recovery – one marked by less austerity and more emphasis on growth. The European Central Bank, for one, may show a renewed passion for aggressive monetary policy, such as quantitative easing. Other European governments may decide that less fiscal restraint is a small price to pay for reducing the sudden appeal of upstart parties. After six years of meagre growth, it's not only Greeks who are seeking a change of course.

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