Tsipras and Meimarakis will try to convince voters in a debate on Monday. Eurozone waits for Sunday’s elections, rules out renegotiation.
Athens.- AMNA, Reuters, Greek News
The leftist Syriza party of former Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras maintained a wafer-thin pre-election lead over conservative New Democracy in three opinion polls on Saturday, with a fourth putting them level-pegging.
The two parties have been hard to separate in the run-up to the Sept. 20 ballot, and Tsipras and his center-right counterpart Vangelis Meimarakis have spent much of their campaigns trying to protect their vote, trading accusations over Greece’s economic crisis, migration and corruption.
In surveys published in the Sunday editions of four newspapers, Syriza led by between 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent in three, hovering around 26 percent of the vote.
A fourth, by Public Issue poll in Avgi that included the preferences of undecided voters, put both parties on 31 percent.
In the other polls the undecided, invariably the third largest bloc in surveys published this month, came in at between 10.4 and 14.1 percent
Pollsters expect some of those voters to come off the fence after a televised head-to-head debate between Tspiras and Meimarakis on Monday, though a seven-party debate broadcast on Wednesday had little impact on voting intentions.
SYRIZA has a 5.0 percentage-point lead over New Democracy, according to a nationwide Pro Rata poll published by Efimerida ton Syntakton on Friday.
According to the poll conducted on September 7-9, in terms of voter intent, SYRIZA is first with 28.5 pct, followed by ND with 23.5 pct, Golden Dawn with 6.5 pct, PASOK with 4.5 pct, Potami with 4.0 pct, Union of Centrists with 3.5 pct, Popular Unity and Independent Greeks with 2.5 pct. The undecided voters came to 17.5 pct.
Asked on who they believe is more suitable for prime minister, 37 pct prefer Alexis Tsipras, 25 pct prefer Evangelos Meimarakis. However, a 25 pct of participants considers that none is suitable for the position.
The New Democracy leader told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that he would try to team up with Syriza if his party placed first, and turn to other pro-European groups if that approach was rejected.
Syriza forced the election last month when Tsipras resigned as prime minister, hoping to end a party rebellion over Greece`s new bailout deal and trade on his then greater popularity by returning to power with a clear majority.
MEIMARAKIS GAINS POINTS
A poll released by the University of Macedonia on 11 September showed New Democracy trailing by just one point with 19%. Those polled said they had been impressed by Vangelis Meimarakis’s performance in a political leaders’ debate last week, compared to 13.5% who favoured Tsipras.
A survey by Palmos Analysis on Saturday reinforced the findings, with the conservatives gathering 23.7% of voter support, compared with 24.9% for the leftists. “He has an emotional intelligence [and speaks] common sense,” said political analyst Dimitris Kerides.
“Meimarakis has also managed to unite the party’s various factions, move it to the centre and, in so doing, appeal to a wider audience,” he told the Observer. “He is the great surprise of this election.”
In July, data released by polling company Metron Analysis revealed a 25-point gap between New Democracy and Syriza, with the leftists leading at 42%. Assured of victory, Tsipras called the snap election on 20 August, hoping to tighten his grip on power after a mutiny of hardliners – opposing the tough terms of a third bailout for the debt-stricken nation – in effect stripped him of a parliamentary majority.
But mirroring the unpredictability of life in a country that only narrowly survived euro exit when creditors agreed in July to extend an €86bn financial lifeline to Athens after months of acrimonious negotiations, little has gone to plan. Nearly six years after the eruption of the financial crisis, the “express” election, while shorn of the bellicosity of previous polls, has revealed Greeks to be in a fickle mood.
With many blaming the leftists for months of political and economic turmoil – culminating with Tsipras’s shock decision to put the demands of creditors to popular referendum and the imposition of debilitating capital controls – the backing for Syriza has dropped dramatically.
The euphoria that greeted Tsipras’s stunning victory in January has instead been replaced by political cynicism. The erstwhile firebrand’s decision to roll back on the promise to “eradicate austerity” by accepting further reforms, including spending cuts and tax increases as the price of averting default and remaining in the euro, has alienated many.
First-time voters, Syriza’s traditional core supporters and young Greeks hit by unemployment of more than 50% – all of whom had rushed to vote “no” in the referendum, only to see their vote turned into a “yes” – feel particularly betrayed. “It seems pointless to vote when my ballot seems so worthless,” said Ilias Papazoglou, describing himself as an unemployed entrepreneur. “What we are being asked to do is vote for a government that will pick up the phone when Merkel calls and do whatever Germany says.”
Berlin, the main provider of the bailout funds that have propped up the moribund Greek economy, has made clear that it would like to see a grand coalition that could implement the tough measures the rescue package demands. “It is much better that Tsipras is in the government enforcing policies,” said one EU official. “If he is in opposition he is on the street fomenting trouble.”
With no party set to win an absolute majority, Meimarakis, who took over New Democracy as an interim leader when Antonis Samaras, his predecessor resigned in July, has been unusually consensual, saying collaboration is crucial to enforcing reforms.
Indicative of the tough times that lie ahead, schools nationwide failed to open on Friday citing budget cuts and lack of staff. Rising poverty levels has stoked similar concerns that Greece could be heading towards its harshest and most explosive winter yet.
Evangelos Meimarakis has called on Greeks to give him the chance to form a government with his New Democracy party at “its core” and undo the damage from seven months of a left-led coalition.
Meimarakis told an audience of party supporters and local business people at the Thessaloniki International Fair on Saturday that “voters cannot gamble away” the “last chance” in the Sept. 20 election to save the country from the policies of the leftist Syriza government.
Meimarakis promised business-friendly policies that would bring jobs, growth and, eventually lower taxes, instead of the state-driven economy he accused his opponent, former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, of promoting.
Tsipras called an early election to seek a fresh mandate after securing a bailout from Greece’s euro zone and International Monetary Fund lenders.
The leader of SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, asked voters on Friday to grant his party an absolute majority in the upcoming elections, while stressing that his party will not cooperate with New Democracy.
Speaking during an election rally in the northern town of Komotini, Tsipras described ND leader Vangelis Meimarakis as a “representative of political anachronism and vested interests that brought the country to the current dire financial situation.”
“We ask the Greek people to reinforce us because we don’t have the support of the big interests, we are only accountable to you and together we will move forward the effort we started,” the leader of SYRIZA told the crowd gathered.
Responding to repeated calls by Meimarakis to cooperate after the elections, he noted that the leader of New Democracy keeps changing his mind about what he wants. “On the one hand he says he wants to cooperate with SYRIZA even with Tsipras as prime minister and on the other hand, he says he doesn’t want Tsipras for prime minister that he’s fed up with his retractions, that ND will win with such a percentage that in the next parliament it wil have the absolute majority of MPs,” he noted.
Greek voters will give PASOK and not Golden Dawn the third place in the upcoming elections in September 20, party leader Fofi Gennimata said on Friday, during her election campaign in the city of Larisa, in central Greece.
She expressed the view that the people will demand with their vote a wider consensus and cooperation among political forces, so that “no more time will be wasted”, adding that the parties who believe in Greece’s stay in the Eurozone have an obligation to work together in a coalition government.
Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis on Friday warned that Potami’s presence in the government formed after the elections should not be taken for granted, speaking to reporters at the 80th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
“The old governing parties do not prefer Potami and our first priority will be to exclude those in the parties that have never held down a job,” he said during the customary TIF press conference given by political party leaders.
He attacked SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras for seeking an absolute majority in Parliament, saying Tsipras had “thrown away” the opportunity given to him by voters and was now asking them to give his party a majority.
“I think that is a joke scenario,” he commented.
Theodorakis proposed that, on the day after the elections on September 20, the leaders of the parties forming the “European front” should meet in order to agree on the priorities, so that there is “no sabotage” and then have another meeting in order to form a government on the basis of a policy programme.