ATHENS – Rebounding from a free-fall plunge in polls after four years of reneging on anti-austerity promises, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ strategy of handouts has cut deeply into the lead of the major rival New Democracy ahead of May 26 elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament.
A poll by MRB published in Ta Nea on Oct. 18 gave New Democracy a lead of 6.5 percent over the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, 30-23.5 percent.
The Conservatives had held leads as high as 14.1 percent, with general elections coming later this year but SYRIZA made inroads after Tsipras said he would cut taxes he raised and give bonuses to pensioners whose benefits he had cut.
Voters seemed to have bought it and ignored derision foisted by a key SYRIZA minister on a wheelchair-bound New Democracy candidate for the EU elections and with Tsipras even riding out claims in a TV documentary his government hid the death toll and chaotic response to July, 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people.
The center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) coalition led by veterans of the defunct PASOK Socialists, who faded from dominance to obscurity after backing austerity measures antithetical to their alleged principles, were third at 6.6 percent.
With a threshold of 3 percent needed to win seats in the EU Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, France, the neo-nazi Golden Dawn was fourth at 6.3 percent even though its hierarchy and dozens of members are in the fourth year of a trial on charges of running a criminal gang.
The only other party meeting the threshold for election was the KKE Communists in their usual position, fifth, at 5.9 percent, where it has been for decades without making any gains from the populace.
Despite the small margin between the parties, some 63.4 percent said they expect New Democracy to win the elections, more than four years after being unseated by SYRIZA and Tsipras, who promised to reverse austerity but imposed more. Only 17 percent said that the Leftists would pull an unlikely upset after shedding voters.
That was done in the summer of 2015, seven months after being elected, as he sought and accepted a third bailout, of 86 billion euros ($96.04 billion), from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM.)
Some 56.9 percent said they had a negative view of the SYRIZA government to 36.3 percent who felt favorable.