A series of scandals, unresolved talks with the country’s international lenders, and the escape of a terrorist seem to be taking their toll on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government and his New Democracy Conservatives, who have fallen 7.7 percent points behind their rival, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in the critical Attica region including Athens.
SYRIZA, which opposes the austerity measures being imposed by the government, had been battling for the lead in surveys for a year with New Democracy, both sides barely one percent apart, but now has a lead of 24.6-16.9 percent in the poll taken by GPO for Newcast.
That comes in the wake of a series of arrests involving a scandal at the failed state-owned Hellenic Postbank, the defense ministry, a publisher charged with failing to pay his taxes and as Samaras is trying to assert the country is poised to make a comeback. Voters aren’t buying it.
Despite the arrest and prosecution of its leaders on charges of running a criminal gang, the ultra-far right extremists of Golden Dawn remain a steadfast third with 11.1 percent, even though its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos and four other of his party’s Members of Parliament are in jail awaiting trial.
As bad as the results were for Samaras, it was worse for his partner, the PASOK Socialists who got 44 percent of the vote in 2009 when it won the elections. Under current leader Evangelos Venizelos, who gave Samaras his votes to join the coalition and was rewarded by being named Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister, have fallen to 3 percent, the threshold needed to win seats in Parliament.
The once-dominant PASOK now is essentially irrelevant with Venizelos under attack in his own party for his incessant support of big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that are antithetical to the party’s Socialist platform. Fearing repudiation in the May European Parliament elections, he is aligning his party with a new group, The 58 Initiative, which is trying to unify Greece’s fractured left for the euro polls.
PASOK is now dead last among the seven parties in the Parliament. The Communist party (KKE) is fourth with 4.9 percent, followed by the Independent Greeks at 4 percent, the Democratic Left (DIMAR) – a former partner in the coalition – at 3.1 percent and also in danger of disappearing as a party next, just ahead of PASOK.
About 13 percent of voters are undecided and while the survey wasn’t nationwide, it covers the most populous area and if the lead holds it would be difficult for New Democracy to catch up and stay in power in the 2016 elections – if the government lasts that long and snap elections aren’t held.
With Samaras promising a recovery and return to the markets this year and a gradual end to a seven-year deep recession and crushing economic crisis, New Democracy and PASOK also have to survive the European and municipal elections this year.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who opposes the austerity measures and said his party wouldn’t repay the $325 billion in loans granted by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) has predicted the Leftists will come to power.
Tsipras, who had blasted Samaras and Venizelos for ejecting party members who disagreed with them, has done the same, tossing out lawmaker Petros Tatsopoulos who indicated there was support in the party for anarchists and terrorists. He promised to punish party members who don’t follow his orders but so far hasn’t offered a clue as to how he would govern without any money.
He has promised a return to Utopia by restoring pay, cutting taxes, returning pensions to their previous level and no public worker firings as demanded by the Troika. He didn’t say how he would do it without the loans or if Greece continues to be locked out of the markets.