Undecided voters remain Samaras’s best hope of victory

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has 10 days to win over undecided voters and overturn the opposition party Syriza’s persistent lead in opinion polls.

About 9.8 million Greeks will vote on Jan. 25 in an election that calls into question the political and financial framework that has kept Europe’s most indebted state afloat since 2010. Syriza opposes the conditions attached to the country’s 240 billion-euro ($283 billion) bailout and wants a writedown on the country’s debt.

“Syriza is clearly in an advantageous position,” Thomas Gerakis, head of Athens-based Marc Pollsters, said on Wednesday. “For the governing New Democracy party to reverse this lead, it has to stop its supporters from fleeing to Syriza, and gain the support of most of the voters who are still undecided.”

The latest polls show a victory for Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, though probably without a wide enough margin over Samaras’s New Democracy party to govern alone.

An Alco survey of voting intentions published Thursday in To Pontiki newspaper projected that Syriza would get 32.4 percent of the vote and New Democracy 28.9 percent, with 10.6 percent of the electorate undecided. The poll of 1,000 people was conducted Jan. 11-13. The margin of error was 3.1 percent.

“With the data available so far, it looks like Syriza won’t win enough votes for an outright majority,” Gerakis said. “However, this is not an implausible target.”

Parliamentary threshold

The number of votes required for securing a majority in Greece’s 300-seat legislature depends on the support that smaller parties can attract.

According to Greece’s electoral law, parties need to win at least 3 percent of the vote in order to gain representation. Seats are then allocated proportionately among parties that cross that threshold, while the group that attracts most votes wins an additional 50 seats.

In the Alco poll, To Potami, a centrist party founded last year, was on 5.1 percent. Golden Dawn, the far-right group whose leader is in jail, got 5 percent, while the communists got 4 percent. Pasok, the socialist party that governed during the country’s debt crisis until 2012 and traditionally traded power with New Democracy, was on 3.6 percent.

If the combined share of the smallest parties is 6 percent, as in Greece’s last election, then the threshold for an outright majority will be about 38 percent. If their share increases to 11 percent, the requirement falls to about 36 percent, according to Gerakis. Parties below the cutoff were set to win 9.1 percent of the vote in the Alco poll.

Samaras warned that a Syriza victory would mean that Greece won’t be able to reach a deal on a credit line to replace the bailout that expires at the end of February, and that the country won’t regain the trust of bond investors. After six years of recession that wiped out more than quarter of the economy, voters are skeptical of his message.

“There is still a double-digit percentage of voters who haven’t decided and they will only decide either just before, or even on the day of the elections,” Gerakis said.