Unrest has ND on shaky ground, poll indicates

Following a weekend of bitter arguments in Parliament between the government and the opposition, New Democracy’s 2009 state budget was due to be approved by a tiny majority last night, but opinion polls suggested that there would be very little for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to celebrate today. A survey carried out by Public Issue on behalf of Sunday’s Kathimerini in the wake of the recent unrest around Greece, indicates that the conservatives have fallen 6 percent behind PASOK in terms of people’s voting intentions. The Socialists garnered 38.5 percent, ND 32.5 percent, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) 12 percent, the Communist Party (KKE) 8 percent and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) 4 percent. Despite PASOK’s rapid rise, it would not be able to form a government on its own. If the poll results were replicated in an actual general election, the Socialists would gain 142 seats in the 300-seat Parliament. A coalition government between SYRIZA and PASOK would seem the most logical alternative, but this option has lost popularity over the last few weeks and three in 10 voters now favor an all-party government as the best alternative. SYRIZA’s stance during the last couple of weeks, criticized by some as being too soft on rioters, appears to have alienated some voters. For example, the popularity of Alexis Tsipras, the young leader of Synaspismos, the main party in SYRIZA, dropped by 13 percent over the last two weeks. The unrest has also led to a significant shift in who is seen as the most suitable prime minister. For the first time, PASOK leader George Papandreou now leads Costas Karamanlis by 35 to 34 percent. Karamanlis and ND will be even more concerned that 86 percent of Greeks now appear to believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Six in 10 believe that the prime minister will call early elections. Speculation continued to mount over the weekend about an imminent reshuffle by Karamanlis with many commentators expecting it to take place early in January. Protests and destruction continue in Athens, Thessaloniki Protests linked to the shooting of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos more than two weeks ago continued over the weekend as protesters again made the Christmas tree in Syntagma Square the target of their anger. Dozens of people gathered in the square on Saturday afternoon to pile rubbish on the tree. Riot police guarding the tree scuffled with some demonstrators in what was largely a peaceful, organized event. Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos was also the target of protesters on Saturday. He was pelted by sweets when he attended a Christmas fair in the center of the city. About 30 youths then staged a sit-in protest at the Olympion film theater, unfurling a banner demanding the release of those who have been arrested during the last two weeks of rioting in Greece. During Saturday night, hundreds of people using the National Technical University of Athens as their base clashed with riot police. The offices of Tiresias, a credit data company, located in central Athens, were also attacked and destroyed. Nobody was injured. Six police cars were also set on fire in the suburb of Nea Philadelphia. Meanwhile, police using lasers carried out a reconstruction early yesterday of Grigoropoulos’s shooting in an attempt to discover whether the special guard who shot him had fired in the air or straight at the group of youths that included the teenager. The officer claims he fired several warning shots in the air and that one of the bullets ricocheted.

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