The ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) appears to have lost its momentum, allowing opposition New Democracy to increase its lead ahead of the March 7 elections, two new polls show. A poll by MRB Research, published yesterday by Kathimerini, showed New Democracy 3.7 percentage points (39.1 percent to 35.4 percent) ahead of PASOK. The MRB poll was conducted over a period of 10 days (January 16-26), with the respondents voting via ballot box. It may not offer a snapshot of voters’ preferences, as telephone polls do, but is considered more reliable. In the period during which the poll was conducted, PASOK suffered a setback with the discovery that Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas had tried to pass through Parliament an amendment favoring a property developer in his own constituency. This happened on January 21. Thus, experts say, the poll may not entirely reflect the negative impact the affair has had on PASOK. A telephone poll published after the Pachtas affair showed New Democracy’s lead widening to 4.3 percent. Previous ballot polls, similar to MRB’s, had New Democracy leading by 2.2 to 3 percent. Despite ND’s lead, poll respondents still prefer Foreign Minister George Papandreou, expected to be crowned PASOK’s new leader on Sunday, over ND leader Costas Karamanlis, for prime minister (45.3 percent to 43.3 percent). But most believe New Democracy will win the March 7 elections (51.2 percent to 35 percent). Previous polls showed this margin in single digits. As large as ND’s lead is, it is still within the bounds of statistical error. According to the poll, the Communist Party (5.1 percent) is the only other party that would pass the 3 percent Parliamentary threshold, although Synaspismos Left Coalition is close (2.9 percent). The Kappa Research poll, shown on state TV Net late on Friday, is more recent, having been conducted between January 26 and 29. It shows ND leading PASOK 40.2 to 36.4 percent. The Communist Party gets 5.5 percent and Synaspismos 2.3 percent. Just over one-tenth of the respondents were either undecided (9.2 percent) or did not respond (1.4 percent). In the MRB poll, the corresponding results were 7 percent and 3.1 percent.