New Democracy-SYRIZA Tight Race

ATHENS – Contradictory polls show both the ruling New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leading the races for this month’s elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament.

Two polls showed radically different results, with one by the company Palmos Analysis giving SYRIZA a big edge in both races, while the other by MRB showed New Democracy winning.

The Palmos poll gave SYRIZA a 26.5-21.4 gap over New Democracy in the May 18 local elections and 21.5-18.1 percent edge over New Democracy in the European Parliament May 25 poll.

The MRB survey had New Democracy winning the local races by 24.4-23.2 percent, and the European Parliament by 21.9-21.3 percent.

Voters continue to want it both ways though, with 43.7 percent saying Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is best suited to hold the position, and only 29 percent backed Tsipras as Premier while saying they would vote for his party, a contradiction in terms.

Asked who would win, 45.2 percent said SYRIZA and 42 percent went for New Democracy, showing how fractured is the political landscape with so much at stake.

Tspiras has said he believes SYRIZA will win big enough to repudiate the coalition of New Democracy and its partner, the now irrelevant PASOK Socialists who have aligned themselves with the Elia (Olive Tree) political movement, a loose collection of intellectuals and academics who banded together to save the fading center-left in Greece.

PASOK won 44 percent of the vote in the national elections in 2009, putting its then-leader George Papandreou in office but he quit two years later, hounded out of office by protests, strikes and riots against austerity measures he imposed on the orders of international lenders.

The Socialists, with Evangelos Venizelos at the helm, had slipped to 3-5 percent in polls before linking with Elia. Venizelos was made Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister in Samaras’ coalition in return for backing austerity measures but his party has paid a punishing price and been put on the edge of extinction in return.

Samaras, who opposed pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions when PASOK was ruling, embraced them as soon as he took office.

But Tsipras said if SYRIZA forces national elections before the coalition’s term runs out in 2016 and he wins, that he would seek to revise the terms of the two rescue packages of 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion) with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) or renege on the loans.

The Palmos poll, which was conducted for the online news portal Tvxs, reveals that SYRIZA benefited from the recent political development affecting the Greek ruling party New Democracy and involving a close aid of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in friendly talks with an ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party MP.

The new To Potami (The River) party that was formed as a populist, anti-politician movement, shows relatively well, between third and fourth in the polls although with a percentage insignificant enough to make a dent.