ATHENS – Greek Premier and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras’ bid to stay in power in the Jan. 25 snap elections is faltering, with surveys showing the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) likely to win, but without enough of the vote to win a majority in Parliament.
Since June of 2012, Samaras has been overseeing a coalition government, which now includes only the PASOK Socialists after the defection of the Democratic Left (DIMAR), but was forced to call the early elections after failing to get his party’s Vice-President, Stavros Dimas, elected by Parliament as the country’s symbolic President.
The Premier has backed ongoing austerity measures demanded by international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which put up 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two bailouts.
That has driven down support for the Conservatives and a survey by Alco, an Athens-based polling company, for the satirical To Pontiki newspaper, gave SYRIZA 31.6 percent to 28.6 percent for New Democracy, although other polls show the Leftists lead narrowed slightly.
SYRIZA had a 3.3 percent lead in a previous poll but both parties have picked up a bit with the new To Potami (The River) party in third with only 4.2 percent.
SYRIZA’s lead over New Democracy “has narrowed slightly,” Costas Panagopoulos, Alco’s CEO, said in a phone interview with Bloomberg. “But it’s a solid lead which won’t be overturned easily.”
SYRIZA has risen on the back of its leader, Alexis Tsipras’ opposition to the big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, worker firings and privatizations Samaras ordered on demand of the Troika, although he had opposed them while out of office when PASOK was in power.
The Alco poll was one of three published since late Jan. 7, each showing SYRIZA with a lead of at least three points. A GPO survey for Mega Channel put SYRIZA at 28.5 percent and New Democracy at 25.3 percent, while a Pulse poll for Action24 website had SYRIZA at 29 percent and New Democracy at 25.5 percent.
Greeks continued their contradictory ways though, saying they favor SYRIZA but want to stay in the Eurozone although Tspiras’ insistence on renegotiating the bailout terms or threatening to walk away from the debt could push the country out of the financial bloc.
In the GPO poll, 75.7 percent of respondents said Greece should stay in the euro area at any cost, while 59.2 percent said there’s still a danger the country may be forced out.
Yet 52.6 percent said they thought if debt relief talks between a new government and the country’s euro-area partners are set on a collision course, the creditors will blink and accept Greek demands.
Samaras has been campaigning on the same tactic he used in 2012 – that SYRIZA would take Greece out of the Eurozone – but it’s falling on deaf ears although he said he has the country on the edge of a recovery and as it has technically come out of a recession although high unemployment and deep poverty remain.
“The fear tactic of a Greek euro exit is increasing Samaras’s numbers, but at the same time the reaction to the current government’s policies is boosting SYRIZA,” said Alco’s Panagopoulos.
The polls also show the new Kinima party of former PASOK leader and previous Premier George Papandreou won’t hit the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament although it could drain votes from other parties.
Also gave him 2.5 percent while showing PASOK at 3.6 percent, a disastrous fall from grace for the party that won 44 percent of the vote in 2009 in gaining the Prime Minister’s office.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who was made Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister by Samaras after joining the coalition and backing austerity, said he wants to be part of any new coalition and that his party is the savior of Greece, although it has been rejected by most Greeks.