9th January 2015

Far-left leading in Greek polls

Some three weeks ahead of the snap general elections in Greece, the anti-austerity far-left SYRIZA leads in the polls. This coalition of smaller far-left parties had only modest results in the previous parliamentary elections, but the austerity policies imposed by the international lenders and carried out by the conservative government of Antonis Samaras rocketed it to the top of the polls. SYRIZA, led by charismatic Alexis Tsipras, also won the EP elections last year. Now, if the polls are to be trusted, the question is no longer if SYRIZA wins, but by how big a margin. The latest poll published by Palmos Analysis gives it a 7,5 percentage points margin over the conservative New Democracy of the incumbent PM Samaras. Previous polls showed a narrower margin, though. Since the winning party obtains a 50-seat bonus, victory by an important margin would enable Mr Tsipras to form a one-color government. Even the most optimistic polls, however, do not indicate such development. SYRIZA scored some 35% in the polls, followed by New Democracy with almost 30%. It seems therefore, that not the first two large parties, but one of the smaller ones will be crucial for the Greek future government. Four smaller parties have preferences around 6%, which could give them enough seats to form a coalition government with one of the first two. These are: the communists, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, the protest movement Potami and the current coalition partners of the conservatives, and previously the strongest party in Greece, the socialist PASOK. The socialists, however, split recently and the ex-PM Papandreu´s new party, the Movement of democratic socialists, could take more than half of PASOK´s voters. We must include in the picture also the Independent Greeks, a party of ex-conservatives who seceded from New Democracy.

Taken together, Grece´s future is highly unpredictable. Mr Tsipras would like to restructure the public debts in the eurozone to provide a sort of “clean start” for economic development, much like the restructuring of the German war debt that took place in the 1950s. He promised to end the austerity policies and to raise incomes, all of this while staying in the euro club. German chancellor Angela Merkel, in a reaction, indicated that “Grexit” is no longer unthinkable, but reiterated that she would like to see Greece inside rather than outside the eurozone. However, the reaction of the financial markets could change the plans totally, as it has before.

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Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic