Greece will hold on May 6 its first election since the country was gripped by the debt crisis, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos announced Wednesday.

The snap, but not unexpected, general election is expected to test Greek resolve for punishing austerity measures, and gives the parties just 24 days to prepare.

The election comes at a time of growing resentment for the technocratic government's tough economic policies, with polls suggesting the coalition's conservative New Democracy and socialist Pasok parties alike could lose ground to anti-austerity forces left and right.

The prospect of a splintered parliament unable or unwilling to follow the current regime of tough economic measures may further spook markets already wary of Greece's ability to manage its crippling national debt.

The news comes a day after a strike by Greek ferry workers on Tuesday left thousands of tourists stranded on outlying islands during one of the busiest times for tourism.

The 48-hour strike comes in spite of pleas from business leaders and politicians not to disrupt Greece's vital tourism sector, an industry that employs one in five workers. Greece, with more than 200 inhabited islands, depends heavily on ferries.

Papademos' government was elected to steer the country through its first €110 billion International Monetary Fund/European Union bailout and secure last month's second €130 billion life line.

Greece is battling to tackle its debt, estimated by the European Statistics agency to reach almost 200 percent of GDP this year, while its economy continues to shrink at an alarming rate.