Voters in doubt, not much trust in Simitis

An examination of voter intentions regarding the two major parties indicates that ND’s lead is stabilizing, helped to a great extent by the high degree of support from its electoral base. There were also considerable tendencies in ND’s favor before the 2000 elections. In two pre-election polls, in December 1999 and March 2000, the ruling party reduced the gap by rallying its supporters just a few months before the elections. However, the situation is somewhat different now for two main reasons: the declining percentage of undecided voters and the percentage of PASOK voters that are steadily moving toward ND. Prior to the 2000 elections, votes lost from PASOK went toward the undecided, finally rallying back to the ruling party. Now, however, 10 percent of PASOK supporters are heading for ND, doubtful of the effectiveness of both the ruling party and its leader. The «lack of trust» in the government’s management of the civil service is seen as a failing on the part of the prime minister himself. This tendency on the part of PASOK voters has contributed to the ruling party’s inability to rally its supporters. Disappointment in the functioning of the civil service, possible experiences of corruption, along with the impression that the recent handouts are a campaign tactic, a view held by even a considerable percentage of PASOK voters, are all harming Simitis’s image. The fact that financially weaker voters are rallying around ND appears to have prompted the prime minister to take action that is not compatible with his so far successful time in office. In losing that advantage, he has also lost votes from the urban masses and dynamic productive groups that have supported him throughout his term in office, yet without making him more acceptable to economically weaker groups or the farming population, where the current negative trend will be difficult to reverse. Karamanlis generally received fewer negative reactions than Simitis, although even his «confidence indicators» are still negative. Karamanlis’s greatest strength is seen in the fact that he has managed to rally ND voters around him, something that the prime minister has not managed to do with his own party’s supporters. However, one should not forget another, significant sector of the electorate. There are a number of voters that have distanced themselves from the two major parties and view the leaders of both parties with mistrust. This percentage reaches 15.8 percent in the current poll, down from previous polls, a trend to be expected the closer one gets to the elections. Nevertheless it represents a consistent behavioral trend among people who are keeping their distances from the two parties and are skeptical about the two leaders. The behavior of this group of voters will have its own bearing on the results of the next elections; therefore figures reflecting differences between the parties should be treated with caution. (1) Andromache Vani is head of MRB Hellas’s political department.