Samaras still trails SYRIZA going into last two weeks of campaign

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras entered the two-week countdown to Jan. 25 elections with opinion polls showing he has so far failed to narrow the lead held by his main opponent, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza.

Separate polls by Kapa Research and Alco put Syriza’s lead over Samaras’s New Democracy party at 2.6 percentage points and 3.2 percentage points respectively, both little changed. The Kapa poll for yesterday’s To Vima newspaper, which ran under the front-page headline, “The Left’s Opportunity,” gave Syriza 28.1 percent support to 25.5 percent for New Democracy.

“There is a consistent trend of Syriza leading by a small margin over New Democracy,” Dimitris Sotiropoulos, an associate professor of political science at the University of Athens, said in an interview. He said the headline might be significant as the media group to which Vima belongs has until now been “lukewarm about the prospect of a Syriza victory.”

nvestor concerns that New Democracy will fail to close the gap with Syriza drove yields on 10-year government securities above 10 percent for the first time in 15 months last week. Victory for Tspiras would threaten conflict with the euro area and the International Monetary Fund since he has pledged to roll back austerity measures tied to Greece’s rescue aid and to write down some of the country’s debt.

Samaras, who took time out from campaigning to attend a march in Paris yesterday showing unity after last week’s terror attacks, laid out his party’s economic platform on Saturday, pledging to cut taxes and create 770,000 jobs in seven key sectors, including tourism, agriculture and logistics.

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Tsipras, in a speech the same day, reiterated his party’s plan to direct social spending toward households reduced to poverty during Greece’s economic crisis. Speaking in Corinth, Tsipras also pledged to raise the tax-free income threshold to 12,000 euros ($14,000) and hit back at Samaras for trying to link the Paris attacks with Syriza’s policies on border control.

“It was a mistake by Samaras to try to link the very unfortunate events in France to the flow of uncontrolled migration into Greece,” said Sotiropoulos. “This kind of reaction alienates the centrist voters who could have voted for Samaras.”

Both Sunday polls placed To Potami, or the River, third, making it a potential coalition partner. The Kapa survey gave To Potami 6.5 percent; then 5.4 percent for nationalist Golden Dawn; 5.2 percent for Pasok, Samaras’s junior coalition partner; followed by the Communist Party of Greece with 5 percent. Support for former Pasok Prime Minister George Papandreou’s Movement of Democratic Socialists, which he only founded this month, was 2.8 percent, just below the 3 percent threshold to win seats in parliament.

Syriza’s poll lead “makes it a favorite to win the election,” Michael Michaelides, a rates strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London, wrote in a Jan. 9 note. Still, “more likely than not it will need to form a coalition,” he said.