Alexis Tsipras, the leader of far left Syriza, took to the airways on Friday morning to declare he will essentially cancel austerity in Greece should his party come first in the upcoming elections. He wants the vote to be a sort of referendum on terminating the bailout agreement. And, unsurprisingly, his message has been going down well with the voters. The latest poll gives his party a six point lead. But results of the second round of voting are as difficult to predict as the first.
We wanted to take a closer look at the figures as they are the last set we’re going to get. Friday is the last day poll are allowed to be published ahead of the June 17 elections.
The Public Issue poll, published on Friday in the Kathimerini, gives Syriza 31.5 percent of the vote, 1.5 percentage points higher than last week. New Democracy (ND) is steady at 25.5 per cent, while Pasok’s share has fallen 2 percentage points to 13.5 per cent. Then the Democratic Left (Dimar) gets 7.5 per cent, Independent Greeks 5.5 per cent, the Communist Party (KKE) also 5.5 per cent, the far-right Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) just 4.5 per cent, while the liberal alliance of Dimiourgia Xana and Drasi is on 2.5 per cent.
Translated into parliamentary seats, that means 134 for Syriza (the largest party gets an extra 50 seats), then 68 for ND, 36 for Pasok, 20 for Dimar etc. Clearly, the best hope of a pro-bailout coalition lies with ND beating Syriza to first place and joining forces with Pasok and perhaps another smaller party.
But most Greeks apparently don’t expect Syriza to win. The Public Issue poll shows that 58 per cent think ND will come first while only 34 per cent expect the leftists to do so.
Tsipras approval rating is also lower than one might expect at 49 per cent, while Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left, gets 67 per cent.
This is interesting because Kouvelis’ party doesn’t get a lot of attention, yet he may end up as the king-maker after the elections. While the ND, Syriza and Pasok positions are pretty much set in stone, the Democratic Left, while anti-bailout, appears to have left itself with room for manoeuvre: Kouvelis has said he would support Syriza, but only if that allowed Greece to stay in the eurozone. He’s also not seeking an immediate termination of the bailout agreement. From Kathimerini:
“We have two red lines: one is a policy which serves the country’s steady presence in Europe, the euro, the euro area, and the other is a gradual disengagement from the terms of the bailout.”
Two other polls published on Friday give ND a lead of up to 2.8 percentage points. But both survey results include undecided voters, whereas the Public Issue poll does not.
Reuters has a useful table of poll results since the last election (H/T Athens News).
The asterisk in the left column indicates an anticipated vote share. In other words, the result effectively excludes undecided voters and those who didn’t say how they will vote, to project how the preferences they do have would translate into an actual result.
We know Tsipras plans to cancel the terms of the bailout immediately if Syriza wins, but he gave a bit more detail on Friday to its other intentions, such as reversing minimum wage and benefit cuts. From Bloomberg:
He said his government planned to tax the wealthy and high-income earners, such as abolishing tax breaks for shipowners, and cancel laws tied to the bailout such as cuts to the minimum wage. Sales taxes on some basic goods, such as bread and milk, will be reduced, as will taxes for some key sectors.
“We will cancel the law … to cut the minimum wage and benefits. Debt payment must be tied to growth levels.”
“We will replace the bailout with a national restructuring plan for economic and social development, productive restructuring and a fair fiscal reform.”
He also said he would approach Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan to try to reduce defence spending by to forging “a mutual agreement to freeze purchases of arms”.