PASOK wins Euro election in lowest poll turnout ever

The results coming in last night from the European parliamentary elections dealt a blow to the government but also indicated voter apathy on a scale never seen before in Greece. Exit polls suggested that New Democracy would lose the election to PASOK by a difference of between 4 and 5 percent and that only one in two eligible voters had cast their ballot. Turnout was estimated to be at about 50 percent, which was the lowest in the history of European elections in Greece by some margin. The previous record low was in 2004, when 36.8 percent of the electorate abstained. The two other notable developments were a modest rise in support for the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and less support for the Ecologist Greens than had been predicted by opinion polls. With 41.17 percent of the nationwide vote counted, PASOK had 36.2 percent, ND 33.92 percent, the Communist Party (KKE) 7.86 percent, LAOS 6.98 percent, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) 4.55 percent and the Ecologist Greens 3.34 percent. Based on these results, PASOK will send eight MEPs to the European Parliament, the same as New Democracy. KKE and LAOS will send two each and SYRIZA and the Eco Greens one each. The results are a boost for PASOK’s George Papandreou, who has been questioned repeatedly since taking over the helm of the party in 2004. It was PASOK’s first Euro poll victory since 1994 and appears to give it a platform to win the next general election. With the final results still not clear by 11 p.m. last night, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis delayed a planned address in which he was expected to tell the Greek people that he had received the message the electorate was trying to send and that he would take the necessary steps to change his government’s policies. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was the first conservative heavyweight to comment on the outcome of yesterday’s election. «One in two voters did not cast their ballot; this should worry us all,» said Bakoyannis upon exiting ND’s headquarters on Rigillis Street in Athens. «We will sit down and analyze the results and adapt our policies accordingly,» she added. «We will direct ourselves toward the angry and disappointed New Democracy supporters.» A number of those supporters are thought to have drifted toward PASOK, though LAOS, which campaigned heavily on the issue of public order and safety, also picked up disgruntled conservatives. «Bigger percentages mean more responsibility,» said LAOS leader Giorgos Karatzaferis. Several LAOS deputies hinted at the possibility of their party working together with ND to form a government in the future. The mood was not as positive in the SYRIZA camp, where the leadership of Alexis Tsipras is likely to be criticized after the leftist party saw its opinion poll ratings plummet by some 10 percent over the last year.