Euro Elections: Dress rehearsal for Greek general elections
With less than ten days to go, Greeks will have to make up their minds whom they want to send to the European Parliament. In theory, on May 26th Greeks will have to elect 21 members for the Greek delegation of the European Parliament. In practice, though, next Sunday is expected to be a last rehearsal for the country’s general elections, which are due any time until October this year.
Not that the previous European elections in Greece were different. Depending on whether they were held before or after general elections, they were always considered a gauge for domestic policies, a measure of popularity of political leaders and an indication of domestic political trends. This is also similar to what is happening this year, but you have to on top of that add that these elections look as if they will be the most polarized in recent memory. Although on paper, 15 parties are participating, it is going to be a tough fight between conservatives and the progressive political forces. In other words, what we will be watching during these last 10 days before next Sunday, is whether the leftist government under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras manages to reverse the trend recorded by numerous polls giving his party second place, or whether conservative liberal Kyriakos Mitsotakis who as a newly elected leader of New Democracy will be the one who eventually will prove the polls right and win the coming general elections later on.
The latest polls published during the last few days confirm the same trend: New Democracy is ahead by around 8 percent and will be sending most of the MEPs to the European Parliament. Syriza comes second. It is doubtful whether other parties will be able to have their own MEPs elected.
But if the published official polls may please or upset the parties and candidates depending on which side they support, this is the time of the “secret polls,” which parties claim to have in front of them, supplied by their pollsters to show the latest story. Whether secret polls do actually exist or it is one last tool to trigger the reflexes of the voters towards one side or the other, we cannot know. But I can tell you one thing: One of the biggest and trusted opinion pollsters told me a few days ago that “we cannot measure the voters’ final choice even the day before the elections!” The same expert reminded me that in Greece the difference between the first and the second party during the European elections in percentage of votes was always small. And bearing in mind that this fight is tough and rough, with a “below-the-belt” campaign between the leaders of the two parties, nobody can be sure of the outcome.
But on what everybody seems to agree is that what matters is how large is the difference between the first and the second party. New Democracy claims that in its own “secret” polls, it has hit historically high levels reaching almost 10 percent ahead of Syriza. Syriza, on the other hand, appears self-confident that the electorate -especially the young voters- will turn to Syriza at the last moment. It counts on the positive impact from recently voted tax cuts and loan relief measures that may boost the mood of people.
Although in the coming Sunday, people are not voting for a prime minister and a government, this will be exactly the debate that will start, whatever the outcome.
Traditionally, whoever wins the European elections in Greece, wins the general elections, too.
It happened in 2009 when George Papandreou won the European elections and then went on to defeat New Democracy Party under Kostas Karamanlis, and it happened during the last European elections with Tsipras’s Syriza party. They won the European elections in 2014, and months later, they won the national elections in 2015, defeating the government of Antonis Samaras, then leader of the New Democracy party.
But, I think this time might not be the same. If Mitsotakis wins with a small, or even big, majority, I do not see how Tsipras would go to elections, “as soon as possible or resign” as the opposition is asking him. He will insist on exhausting his time even if all polls tell him that a defeat is certain.