Ecogreens on threshold of Parliament

A party that gets little media coverage, whose officials are not well-known and whose political approach contains a strong activist element is staking a claim to parliamentary representation, recent polls show. The party is the Ecologists-Greens, which is the leading party of political environmentalists. In the 2004 European elections, the party won 0.67 percent of the vote (ranking eighth among the parties that contested the election). In the Greek parliamentary elections of 2007, with candidates in 54 out of 56 electorates, it won 75,502 votes, or 1.05 percent. It gained the highest number of votes among parties that did not gain seats in Parliament. Over the past six months, however, Public Issue’s monthly polls for Kathimerini and Skai have recorded a steady increase in support for the party, with figures tripling from 1 percent in April to 3 percent in November. The figure jumped to 1.5 percent in May, and remained steady in July and July. Since September, the party has seen its popularity surge, with successive polls showing it grow by 0.05 percent increments. The party has increased its following since the 2007 elections to the point where it has become a force to be reckoned with, and may even gain a seat in Parliament. Voter profile Data from Public Issue’s cumulative poll (for September to November) enable us to give a rough profile of voters who stated they would vote for the Ecologists «if elections were held next Sunday.» They come from the most dynamic population groups, are urban dwellers, have an average or high level of education and are politicized. Those who support the ecologists are evenly spread (one in five in each category) across the 25-35, 35-44, 45-45 and 55-64 age groups. The party has significantly less appeal to those aged 18-24 and 65 and over (one in 10 in each category). The overwhelming majority live in cities (eight in 10, with only one in an exurb and one in a rural area). Ninety-six percent have an average or higher level of education (evenly spread) and six out of 10 professed an interest in politics (a lot to quite a lot), compared with four who stated they had little or no interest. As for their political stance and party affiliation, one in six said they were right/center-right, while one in three voted for New Democracy in the last elections. Asked how they voted in the 2007 elections, the sample of voters who now support the Ecologists split three ways. First were the longstanding, regular supporters of the environmentalists who, given the party’s growing support, now represent only 25 percent of its voters. Second were those who have voted for PASOK or one of the left-wing parties in Parliament – 29 percent PASOK, 11 percent the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and 5 percent the Communist Party (KKE). The third group was made up of those who have voted for New Democracy (29 percent). Another 10 percent stated that either they hadn’t voted at all or cast a blank vote. The percentage of the vote the Ecologists get in the elections will have an impact on the percentage the winner needs to form a majority. All the parties that do not get into Parliament regularly win around 1-1.5 percent of the vote. If the Ecologists-Greens get close to but do not exceed the 3 percent required to entitle them to a seat, the popular vote (the sum of the percentages gained by the parties in Parliament), will come to around 96-97 percent. This means that the winning party will need around 41-41.4 percent to gain an outright majority. But if the Ecologists-Greens exceed 3 percent, the popular vote will be higher than 98 percent, and the winning party will need more than 42 percent to gain an outright majority. Recent polls show that the leading party will not be able to secure an outright majority, and talk is already in the air of a coalition between PASOK and the Ecologists-Greens. That would be possible if they gained 151 seats: for example, if PASOK got 38.5 percent of the vote and the Ecologists 3.5 percent. Lasting trend? The question now is whether these recent poll results reflect a lasting or a temporary state of affairs. At a time of unprecedented political fluidity, nobody can predict with certainty how the large number of voters who say they would support the Ecologists-Greens will actually vote in the next, highly polarized election. Matters are even less certain when one takes into consideration the diverse mix of voters who say they will support the party, a large proportion of whom had drifted away from ND and PASOK or left-wing parties in 2007. Giorgos Koukourakis is an election analyst for Public Issue pollsters.

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