Critical votes

There is a critical section of voters to whom Costas Simitis essentially owes his two election victories of September 1996 and April 2000. And, unfortunately for him, this category of voters is not going to revise its negative stance toward PASOK based on the recently introduced «social package.» Further, it will probably also oppose the ruling party more actively and effectively in the next electoral showdown. In view of this, it is worth «sounding out» this critical sector of the voting population which may determine the outcome of the next elections. When Costas Simitis won the 1996 elections with 41.5 percent of the votes (as compared to New Democracy’s 38.1 percent), the three left-wing parties (Communist, Synaspismos and Democratic Socialist Movement) had amassed an impressive total of 15.2 percent. This means that PASOK’s victory was chiefly based on a direct transfer of votes from the center right. In the year 2000, PASOK scraped by with a marginal victory with 43.8 percent, as compared to ND’s 42.7 percent, while the three left-wing parties garnered a total of 11.4 percent, that is, 3.7 percentage points less than in 1996. So, the fact that PASOK increased its gains by 2.3 percent between 1996 and 2000, while ND boosted its share by 4.6 percent (with left-wing parties losing 3.7 percent) has created a strong momentum that is very difficult to stop. This can be chiefly attributed to the peculiarity of this section of voters, who may appear unstable but whose voting criteria are anything but.