SYRIZA Re-Takes The Lead

Alexis Tsipras

ATHENS – Continuing their see-saw battle for the top of the popularity poll among Greek voters, the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party that is opposed to bailout measures propping up the country’s economy now has a narrow lead over the New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

The closely-monitored survey by the MRB agency posted on the news website gave SYRIZA a scant 21.9-21 percent lead, negligible given the margin of error and also found that more than 90 percent of Greeks feel pessimistic about the nation’s economy.

The Dec. 2-11 survey of 2,000 people put the far-right Golden Dawn party in third place with 8.9 percent, roughly unchanged from six months ago after it plummeted sharply following the arrest of party leaders on charges of operating a criminal gang. That was in the wake of the murder of an anti-fascist for which a party member was arrested.

Unlike polls by other agencies that showed SYRIZA and New Democracy swapping the lead, the MRB ranking was the first time the Leftists had finished first in more than a year and came as Samaras is touting a “success story,” in which he predicts Greece will begin to recover next year and return to markets.

The county is surviving on the remainder of $325 billion in two bailouts from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which has demanded big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions.

The poll said 94 percent of Greeks considered the country’s situation “quite bad” or “very bad” — a jump of more than 10 points since June. The government and its bailout lenders are predicting the end of the severe six-year recession in 2014, which many analysts doubt.

The findings came as bailout inspectors continued talks in Athens aimed at overcome sticking points in negotiations that have dragged on for months. The main obstacles remain how to lift protection for troubled mortgage holders and the future of the state-run arms maker Hellenic Defense Systems.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)