New polls confirm conservative lead

As PASOK’s new chairman laid down his conditions for a televised debate with his chief opponent, three new opinion polls showed the ruling Socialists to be up to 4.5 points behind conservative New Democracy. A VPRC nationwide survey in yesterday’s Kathimerini gave ND a 4.4 percent lead, with 33.2 percent over PASOK’s 28.8 percent. Significantly, the poll was conducted by phone on February 11 and 12, after the Socialists announced their controversial signing-on of two former New Democracy and two former Synaspismos Left Coalition officials. The poll gave the Communist Party (KKE) 3.7 percent and Synaspismos 2 percent – under the three-percent threshold for parliamentary entry. The elections are on March 7. At the same time, 45 percent of respondents confirmed the trend favoring PASOK’s George Papandreou as the man best qualified to rule the country, while ND’s Costas Karamanlis followed at 41 percent. A second poll in Kathimerini, by MRB, gave ND 39.9 percent, PASOK 36.9, KKE 5.3 and Synaspismos 3 percent. Again, Papandreou outstripped Karamanlis by 3.8 percent as best suited to become prime minister. And a RASS poll in yesterday’s Paron weekly gave ND 40 percent, PASOK 35.5, KKE 5 and Synaspismos 3.1 percent, with Papandreou preferable as a PM to Karamanlis. Meanwhile yesterday, PASOK published a response by Papandreou to Karamanlis’s proposal for a televised debate. The 51-year-old former foreign minister proposed four debates on foreign policy, the economy and development, education and employment, and «young people and new technologies.» He made no mention of other party leaders being invited to the debate, which drew criticism from ND, KKE and Synaspismos. ND spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said he would talk to Papandreou’s aides, but called for a broader agenda.