SYRIZA lead widens before Greek vote as speculation mounts

SYRIZA widened its lead over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy in three opinion surveys just days before the general election, prompting one pollster to say the race was all but decided.

SYRIZA, an acronym for Coalition of the Radical Left, led by between 4 percentage points and 6.5 percentage points in separate surveys conducted by GPO, Alco and the University of Macedonia based in Thessaloniki. That’s up from about 3 points last week.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult for New Democracy to overturn SYRIZA’s lead,” Nikos Marantzidis, a professor of political science at the University of Macedonia who presided over the poll broadcast on Skai TV, said by phone on Tuesday. “Only a dramatic event of some sort could change things now.”

The University of Macedonia poll showed SYRIZA’s lead rising to 6.5 points from 4.5 points, the widest margin of the three latest surveys.

Current polls, if replicated on Jan. 25, would still leave SYRIZA needing to agree on a program for government with a coalition partner. The leader of one potential ally, To Potami, said in an interview on Jan. 8 that his party wouldn’t back any policy that put Greece’s place in the euro in doubt, and that Syriza’s plan to negotiate a writedown on Greek public debt isn’t feasible right now.

Stocks, bonds

In the GPO poll, broadcast on Mega Channel, SYRIZA had 30.4 percent support compared with 26.4 percent for New Democracy, extending its advantage by 0.8 percentage points from GPO’s previous survey released on Jan. 7. GPO questioned 1,200 people between Jan. 16 and Jan. 19 and didn’t provide a margin of error.

Greek stocks fell on Tuesday, with the benchmark Athens Stock Exchange losing 1.1 percent as of 12.42 p.m. local time. ASE is the worst performing of all major equity indices tracked by Bloomberg in the last month, amid uncertainty over the implications of a potential SYRIZA win. Yields on Greek 3-year bonds rose 34 basis points to 11.48 percent. Greek bonds have delivered the worst returns in the last month among 34 sovereign securities tracked by Bloomberg’s World Bond Indexes.

Samaras said on Monday that victory for SYRIZA’s 40-year-old leader, Alexis Tsipras, would mean a new bailout request for Europe’s most indebted state. After a six-year slump that left more than a quarter of the workforce without a job, Samaras’s warnings of a new recession, or even exit from the euro, have made less impression on voters than Tsipras’s promise of an end to austerity.

‘Crucial’ week

SYRIZA widened its lead to 4.4 percentage points in a survey from Athens-based Alco, posted yesterday on the website of Proto Thema newspaper. The country’s main opposition party increased its share to 31.7 percent from 31.2 percent in Alco’s previous survey.

Support for New Democracy, which has been in office since June 2012, fell to 27.3 percent from 27.8 percent. Alco polled 1,000 people from Jan. 15 to Jan. 17 and the margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.

An outright majority for SYRIZA “seems difficult at this stage, but this doesn’t mean it’s out of reach,” Marantzidis said. “This final week will be crucial to determine the dynamics on the finishing line.”