Poll results show ND gaining public favor

The ruling PASOK party finds itself in the worst position yet regarding the voters’ degree of confidence in its policies and in the way it wields power, as well as in relation to the public’s view of the main opposition New Democracy party. According to a recent poll carried out around the country by the polling firm ALCO, New Democracy appears to have stabilized its considerable lead over PASOK, not only as regards voters’ intentions (37.9 percent say they will vote for ND, compared to 29.5 percent for PASOK) but also regarding the likelihood of electoral victory (where the difference between them is 32.2 percentage points, with ND ahead). This latest poll puts ND leader Costas Karamanlis ahead of Prime Minister Costas Simitis as the most suitable person for prime minister. Just over 32 percent of those polled consider Karamanlis the best choice for prime minister, with only 30.4 percent opting for the incumbent. New Democracy is 8.4 percentage points ahead of PASOK, therefore, regarding voters’ intentions. The truth is that this latest ALCO survey does not record some of the more spectacular changes in the electoral climate which were evident in earlier polls, carried out both by the same and by other companies. This only confirms evaluations that trends are consolidating steadily in favor of ND. PASOK has not convinced anyone that it is capable of reversing the tide, something that appears to be extremely difficult given the problems within the party and the multitude of battles the government is waging in the social sector. Voter movements Another factor in the opposition party’s favor is the number of voters abandoning one party for another. During the previous election campaign, ND headquarters felt that achieving a target of 2:1 in this area would take it to victory; now the ratio is 6:1 in favor of ND. That is, for every 1.5 New Democracy supporters that move over to PASOK, as many as nine PASOK supporters are moving in the other direction. At the same time, after the dissolution of Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos’s Movement of Free Citizens (KEP), it appears that many ND supporters who flirted with the idea of supporting Avramopoulos’s party are returning to home base. It is not clear, however, whether the same thing is occurring among PASOK supporters. Among the poll’s few positive results for the ruling party is the fact that 68 percent of its supporters are rallying around it. However, very few of those who are undecided declare any willingness to support Simitis’s party. As if that were not enough, the trend in favor of ND is strengthened by most voters’ belief that if Avramopoulos returns to the ND fold, the party stands an even better chance of winning («certain» 45.6 percent, «probably» 29.8 percent). Neither one nor the other Nevertheless, no one is unaware of yet another result of the poll, which is clearly negative for both major parties. People are obviously not at all happy with either the present government nor with the main opposition party. An indication of this, combined with previous findings, is that in the next elections, people will be voting for what they see is the lesser of two evils, and not for a party they believe is a «good» one. Just over 78 percent of voters claim to be «not very» or «not at all» satisfied with PASOK; the corresponding figure for ND is 70.3 percent. Among those who usually vote for PASOK, the proportion is 6 in 10, and among opposition supporters 5 in 10. Nor are people very optimistic that ND will do a better job of governing the country than the current ruling party (28.7 percent think they will, 40.4 percent think things will be the same, and 23.9 percent think they will do a worse job). Yet voters do not see the smaller parties as a viable alternative to the bipolar system. As for political party leaders, the prime minister has lost support, with 43.5 percent in favor of him and 47.4 percent against. However, top of the popularity poll is still Left Coalition (SYN) leader Nikos Constantopoulos (56.7 percent in favor), followed by Karamanlis (54.5 percent), Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) party leader Dimitris Tsovolas (50.7 percent), Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga (29.5 percent) and Political Spring (POLA) party leader Antonis Samarras (25.7 percent). One must bear in mind the fact that this poll was carried out before Avramopoulos announced the dissolution of his party; the leader of the now defunct party received a popularity rating of 63.7 percent in the poll, although his party only received 2.9 percent of intended votes. So his decision was probably the right one for him politically. Asked to rate Avramopoulos’s management of the Athens municipality, 48.9 percent replied «correct» and only 12.7 percent thought his management was «wrong.» Popularity ratings Meanwhile, in the party officials’ popularity stakes, Dora Bakoyianni, the candidate for mayor of Athens fielded by ND, is first among voters’ preferences (68.1 percent), followed by Foreign Minister George Papandreou (66.9 percent). However, there are more PASOK than ND cadres among the top 10 on the list – apart from Bakoyianni, ND has only Giorgos Souflias and Prokopis Pavlopoulos. PASOK’s top cadres also include Evangelos Venizelos, Theodoros Pangalos, Akis Tsochadzopoulos, Vasso Papandreou, Christos Papoutsis and Costas Laliotis. George Papandreou is also seen (by 41.3 percent) as the person most likely to succeed Simitis as party leader. The answers to the poll questions were given spontaneously, indicating that the foreign minister is likely to be the next leader of PASOK, over half of whose supporters say they would vote for him. The results should also be interpreted in the light of the period during which the poll was carried out, when Alekos Papadopoulos was ousted as health minister (on June 10) after stating in an interview in Kathimerini that he would retire from active politics after the next election. The period was also marked by an incident in which a man was arrested after firing a gun near the prime minister’s residence in the central district of Kolonaki, and the ensuing uproar when the street was closed. During this period, the government was fighting battles on various fronts – with university faculty staff, bankers and Social Security Foundation hospital staff. At the same time, Costas Karamanlis was having meetings in the USA, and the conservatives won the elections in France.

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