Close race in Greece until Sunday
As the clock has started ticking, most Greeks seem to have decided whom they want to lead their country during the next four years. At least this is what the latest opinion polls tell us. Syriza, the radical leftist party under the telegenic, open-shirted Alexis Tsipras, has been persistently leading all polls since September 2014. As of yesterday, he had increased his lead by 3-5 percent over the conservative New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras; the two of them are expected to attract around 60 percent of the total vote. Only four or five smaller parties may manage to cross the electoral threshold of 3 percent, including PASOK, the minor coalition partner of Samaras.
Unless there is a last-minute surprise, the recently formed party of former Prime Minister George Papandreou is not expected to cross the threshold. There are still about 10 percent of voters who will make their final decision during the coming days, even on the day of the polling this coming Sunday.
Whom will they vote for? Analysts think that they will go for either of the two main combatants, most probably for the first one, Syriza.
This crucial poll was forced. In a much criticized move, the government decided to ask for an early parliamentary vote over the successor to President Carolos Papoulias, whose term is ending in February. The government candidate failed to secure enough votes, and the country had to go to a snap election, a year before it was due. This created havoc both inside and outside Greece. Political uncertainty could derail the agreed austerity program imposed by Greece’s creditors, and most importantly, because the likely winner will be Syriza.
Except for their voters, nobody wants Syriza in power.
The European political and economic establishment, through their supporting media, has used this short but highly tense election campaign to deliver enough warnings to the Greeks about the imminent disaster for their country should they bring a “rebel” to power.
But as BBC EU expert Gavin Hewitt notes, “When a country has been bailed out to the tune of 240 billion euros, there is no such thing as non-interference in Greece’s internal politics.” Old threats for a likely “Grexit” were hurled from powerful financial circles, only this time they were scarier than five years ago when the Greek crisis erupted – this time with a footnote added that “the eurozone would be able to absorb the shock of a Greek exit because it has built enough protection mechanisms.”
Syriza is also a red flag for most of its political opponents.
For the Samaras government, a Syriza government succeeding them would endanger whatever progress was achieved as a result of the austerity program designed by Greece’s creditors. “Just when we had managed to achieve a budget surplus, just as we were at the end of the tunnel and we were about to see the light,” they say.
And they, supported by their own plethora of media outlets, bombarded the psychologically and financially exhausted Greeks over the catastrophes awaiting them if their country is kicked out of the eurozone and returns to its national currency, the drachma.
The Soviet-style Greek Communist Party (KKE) refuses to give a helping hand to their comrades, as they see them as “part of the capitalist system.” And support from two small parties expected to enter the new parliament is still too early to seal.
So, until very recently, the main argument was that Tsipras’ party, even if it came first, would not be able to form a government either because it does not have enough votes or because they could not secure enough support from other parties.
However, polls show that the scaremongering campaign from outside and inside Greece may have created the opposite result. Greeks may not trust Syriza’s conflicting policies over the economy, and they may expect Syriza to eventually succumb to a compromise solution in order to keep the country in the eurozone. But outraged with those who ruthlessly threatened them that they would lose their pensions and homes if Syriza won, many have decided to go for the underdog. And if you add to that the energy of the new party under a young leader not linked to the old corrupt political establishment ruling the country since the 1950s, then you may end up with a clear majority for Syriza. What would follow next, though, may neither be clear nor easy.