OPINION

Wide margin

Despite the discrepancies between the MRB and Metron Analysis surveys, both opinion polls confirm a number of trends that have been recorded over the past couple of years. The main conclusion is that conservative opposition New Democracy’s lead is growing slowly but surely. This, however, is not a linear process. Political conjunctures cause occasional fluctuations but do not halt the medium-term tendency to move upward. The crisis among PASOK’s ruling Socialists in June 2002 favored ND. By the end of December, however, the government’s image had seriously improved as a result of the crackdown on the November 17 terrorist organization. ND’s faux pas in the elections for superprefecture had a decisive effect on the overall pre-election climate and afforded the governing party an opportunity to rally its followers. As a result, when the local and prefecture elections came around, PASOK performed much better than it had expected. The government also managed to capitalize on the positive outcome of the EU’s Copenhagen summit. All these factors allowed PASOK to trim the conservatives’ lead. But even when the Socialists were at their best, ND’s margin never fell below the six-point threshold. This means that we’re dealing with a consolidated margin that is becoming increasingly difficult to narrow. In other words, a large number of voters have been swayed by the conservative party. Still, PASOK shows remarkable endurance. It has not given up and it has prevented ND from creating any irrevocable momentum. However, it appears too feeble to stage a political counterattack. The reason for this is probably that the Socialists’ primary enemy is not the conservative opposition but the fatigue and disaffection among the social strata which have traditionally supported PASOK. It is worth noting that the recent two polls indicate that Prime Minister Costas Simitis has improved his position vis-a-vis conservative leader Costas Karamanlis as regards his suitability for premier. MRB gives Simitis a tissue-thin lead over Karamanlis, while Metron Analysis shows an even more favorable lead for the premier. An explanation for this could be that extraordinary circumstances, such as war, tend to inspire solidarity around the leader of the time. Whatever the reasons may be, we can conclude that the pendulum has not swung completely to the right. But, at present, ND’s advantage is indisputable in any case.