Poll sees Tsipras in lead as Greece gears up for elections

Poll sees Tsipras in lead as Greece gears up for elections

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Poll sees Tsipras in lead as Greece gears up for elections

Greece’s Supreme top Court judge Vassiliki Thanou (L) stands in front of President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (R) during her swearing in ceremony as the country’s caretaker Prime Minister, at the Presidential Palace in Athens, Greece August 27, 2015. Thanou, the country’s first female prime minister, was named the head of a caretaker government to lead the country to elections expected next month, the president’s office said on Thursday. Reuters Photo

Greece geared up for its fifth election in six years with a poll on Aug. 28 showing leftist leader Alexis Tsipras in the lead for re-election despite a wave of defections from his Syriza party.

“Today the great electoral battle begins. The Greek people will give a strong mandate for the present and the future,” Tsipras said in a statement to Avgi, the Syriza daily.

“Greece cannot turn back and will not turn back. It will only go forward,” said Tsipras, who was elected on an anti-austerity ticket in January but now seeks re-election to apply fresh cuts.

A poll in leftist Efimerida ton Syntakton daily gave Syriza a 3.5-point lead over conservative New Democracy, even though a majority of voters disapprove of the snap ballot.

The survey by pollsters ProRata said 23 percent of voters would support Syriza over 19.5 percent for New Democracy.

But another 25.5 percent of respondents are undecided.

Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday appointed the country’s top judge as caretaker PM to hold the vote, expected on September 20.

Supreme Court chair Vassiliki Thanou, 65, thus became Greece’s first female prime minister albeit briefly.

The caretaker government announced on Aug. 28 includes former socialist finance minister Nikos Christodoulakis as economy minister, and George Houliarakis - the main Greek negotiator with the country’s creditors - as finance minister.

Veteran diplomat and ex-conservative minister Petros Molyviatis will helm the foreign ministry for the third time. He had also served as caretaker foreign minister during elections in 2012.

Popular singer Alkistis Protopsalti was named junior minister for tourism, and the long-term head of the National Gallery, Marina Lambraki-Plaka, as junior minister for culture.

Tsipras’ Syriza party has been hit by a wave of defections across the board after he signed up to a third EU bailout which critics say is the harshest Greece has adopted so far.

A group of 25 hardline lawmakers split off to form their own party, Popular Unity, and Syriza has also been hit with resignations at local party level.

According to the Aug. 28 opinion poll, Popular Unity would pick up 3.5 percent of the vote, just above the minimum percentage required for parliamentary representation.