ND extends lead, Simitis hangs tough

The ruling PASOK party is trailing New Democracy by nearly 10 percent in a nationwide opinion poll but Prime Minister Costas Simitis is still hanging on, with just 0.7 percent of those polled saying they thought ND leader Costas Karamanlis would be a more fitting prime minister. PASOK’s influential Central Committee is to hold a joint meeting with the party’s parliamentary group tomorrow to discuss Greece’s EU presidency, efforts to settle the Cyprus problem and other issues. What is sure to dominate the meeting is the current climate of discontent caused by recent highly publicized layoffs. The poll is likely to exacerbate this. Regarding Cyprus, Simitis will be coming fresh from talks with President Tassos Papadopoulos today. The Cypriot leader arrived yesterday, at a time when Nicosia and Athens are working on the next steps aimed at solving the Cyprus problem. Papadopoulos has said he would like to see a solution by February, ahead of the island’s EU accession in May. If elections were held today, 39.6 percent would vote for New Democracy, 29.8 percent for PASOK, 4.7 percent for the Communist Party, 2.6 percent for Left Coalition-Synaspismos (below the 3 percent threshold for entry to Parliament), 2.0 percent for the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) and 1.8 percent for extreme right LAOS. Another 17.4 percent were undecided, according to the telephone poll published by Kathimerini yesterday. It was conducted between May 14-19 by the RASS company in cooperation with Zogby International of the USA. An MRB poll in March gave ND a lead of 7.9 percent over PASOK, while a Metron Analysis poll in early April trimmed this down to 6.5 percent. The RASS poll also found that, if the party leaders were not referred to, the most suitable candidates for prime minister were Foreign Minister George Papandreou (26.1 percent) followed by ND cadre and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni (17.5 percent), former Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos (10.2 percent) and President Costis Stephanopoulos (5.8 percent).