Polls upset PASOK

The government spokesman yesterday raised a question over the code of ethics – where it does not exist. The cause was yesterday’s leading article in the Avriani daily which contained information about a biannual MRB poll due to be released today. Christos Protopapas spoke of misinformation or of a leak that contradicts the code of ethnics, hinting at the intentions and, by extension, doubting the credibility of the pollsters. It must be noted that the company that conducted the survey denied Avriani’s report. All this occurred though reports over pending opinion polls have often been published in the past without triggering any reaction from the sensitive spokesman. However, there is more to this than an indirect attempt to cause a stir and exert psychological pressure. Even the most optimistic among Socialist cadres admits that the climate within PASOK is much grimmer than it was last September, when New Democracy’s lead ranged from 6.1 percentage points (according to KAPPA pollsters) to 7.7 percent (in the RASS survey). Given the fact that those surveys were conducted during what was a relatively upbeat period for PASOK, there is good reason to believe that the chasm between the two rivals has widened. ND’s lead is mainly a result of PASOK’s political weariness. According to nearly all public surveys over the past couple of years, the wave of the protest vote will be so big that the margin between the two main contestants will hardly fall under 6 percentage points. Depending on political circumstances, the margin does fluctuate, but stays above that threshold. Some have interpreted the conservative lead as success by the opposition in rallying its fighting forces. Opinion polls show that this has indeed played a role, but that the primary cause is that a considerable number of voters (both from the middle ground and traditional center-left) have already moved closer to ND because they are tired of, or in reaction to, government policies. During the previous round of opinion polls, the Socialist leadership tried to offset the unfavorable impression by accentuating PASOK leader Costas Simitis’s tissue-thin lead in polls as the most suitable candidate for premier. This indicator is, no doubt, an important one but is not as significant a factor as PASOK’s spin doctors would have it, especially when the party is trailing the opposition by such a large percentage. A comparison between the two leaders is more favorable for PASOK than one between the fortunes of the two parties. This is not only thanks to Simitis’s prestige, as is often claimed. It is also because some 10 percent of voters from the Communist Party, Synaspismos Left Coalition and DHKKI, because of family resemblances, would rather have Simitis than Costas Karamanlis for premier. But they do not intend to vote for PASOK.