A slimmed-down 23-member cabinet was sworn in on Friday as Parliament was dissolved and elections were set for September 20 in what opinion polls indicate will be a closely fought contest.
Caretaker Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou presided over the first meeting of the new cabinet after her ministers were sworn in and stressed that the government’s role is to ensure that the elections pass off without incident.
“We will do our utmost so that the elections are held in flawless fashion,” said Thanou, who was Supreme Court president until Thursday.
She said that the new cabinet is staffed with people “with the broadest possible appeal, personalities who have distinguished themselves in the sciences, politics and the arts.”
A poll conducted by the University of Macedonia on behalf of Skai TV and Radio suggested that the election campaign will prove extremely tense as the final result could remain in doubt right until the evening of September 20.
The university’s first poll since June indicated that SYRIZA has experienced a dramatic slump in support, falling by 9.5 percentage points to 25 percent. In contrast, New Democracy has seen its backing increase from 16.5 percent in June to 22 percent this month.
After these two parties there is a large gap to the next six that are seen passing the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament. Potami is seen in third place with the Communist Party on 6 percent. They are followed by Golden Dawn on 5.5 percent, Popular Unity – which was formed by SYRIZA rebels last week – on 5 percent and the Union of Centrists and PASOK on 4.5 percent.
The current coalition partner Independent Greeks is seen gathering just 2 percent of the vote. Five percent of those questioned said they would vote for other parties, while 14.5 percent did not express a preference.
The decline in SYRIZA’s popularity is also reflected in Tsipras’s plummeting ratings. The leftist leader had an approval score of 70 percent at the end of March but this has now fallen to 29.5 percent, which is not that far ahead of New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis on 26 percent.
How Greeks now see Tsipras’s decision to call a referendum on the bailout terms offered by the country’s lenders at the beginning of July also represents a blow to the former PM.
The University of Macedonia found that 66.5 percent of Greeks believe the plebiscite harmed Greece, while just 14.5 percent think that it helped.
Other opinion polls published on Friday also indicated that the election race will be a close one.
SYRIZA was supported by 23 percent of those polled by ProRata for Friday’s Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper, with New Democracy second on 19.5 percent. The previous ProRata poll in early July showed a wider gap in SYRIZA’s favor, putting the party on 26 percent compared with 15 percent for New Democracy.
SYRIZA would get 29 percent and conservative ND 27.8 percent if elections were held now, a poll conducted by Metron Analysis for Parapolitika newspaper showed.