Poll finds voters doubt gov’t reform

The majority of Greek voters do not believe the government has any organized program of reforms and doubts that it will be able to make significant changes to Greece’s economic, social security and education systems, according to an opinion poll carried out for Sunday’s Kathimerini. The survey, conducted by VPRC, suggests that 51 percent of the electorate think the ruling conservatives «probably do not» have a comprehensive plan for reforms. This is the first time that the figure has passed the 50 percent mark since New Democracy came to power in March 2004 on the back of promises of an ambitious agenda of reforms. Almost half of the respondents (47 percent) also said they do not think that the government’s proposed reforms will materialize. Some 40 percent of almost 1,000 people questioned believe that ND will be able to make the changes it wants. These statistics are likely to worry Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his government as it enters its last year of power before having to call elections. Last week Karamanlis in private urged his ministers to dispel talk of early elections and asked for ND’s party conference to be held in July in the hope of sending a clear message to the electorate that he will not go to the polls early. It appears that Karamanlis wants to see through several more reforms projects, such as shaping the future of tertiary education, before putting his party’s popularity to the test in general elections. He will likely be encouraged by the fact that the VPRC poll indicated that 47 percent of voters agree that private universities should be allowed to operate in Greece, compared to 43 percent who think that all universities should be state-run. Equally, almost six in 10 respondents think that the Constitution probably needs to be reviewed – another of ND’s projects – compared to only 20 percent who do not think this reform necessary. In terms of overall popularity, the poll has ND at 43 percent – the same as in January – whereas PASOK has made a slight gain from 39 to 39.5 percent over the last month.