What’s in a ballot?

Three months after a landslide defeat in the national election, a Socialist victory in the European polls is most unlikely. But in the light of in-party squabbling, the size of the defeat will be crucial. Polls give an 8 percent lead to New Democracy (ND). Whatever the outcome on June 13, it will be judged against that of 1999 and by the margin between the two main parties. PASOK leader George Papandreou has one drawback and two assets. The drawback is that his political decisions have cast a cloud over the party’s claim to represent the center-left of the ideological spectrum. His first asset is the unmaking of DHKKI – a party that drew heavily on disaffected center-leftists and which in 1999 won 6.85 percent of the vote. Many of these voters are unlikely to swing toward Synaspismos Left Coalition, in part due to its «yes» vote on the Cyprus referendum. And a number of them will return to the party fold, if somewhat reluctantly. For its part, ND is expected to absorb most of the 2.28 percent won in 1999 by the now-defunct Political Spring. On the other hand, it should lose some votes to the ultra-nationalist LAOS, which did not exist five years ago. Papandreou’s second advantage is that PASOK’s performance will be contrasted with that of 1999 – which was very poor for PASOK, but mainly for coincidental reasons (the Ocalan fiasco and the war on Serbia). Back then, PASOK trailed ND by four points but went on to win the national elections 10 months later. The odds will probably look worse for PASOK compared to the March 7 vote. ND is expected to widen its 4.8 lead over the Socialists. A big defeat will escalate in-party opposition. Evangelos Venizelos, Papandreou’s aspirant successor, and Akis Tsochadzopoulos, one of PASOK’s old guard, were first to question the PASOK chairman. Worse for the newly installed chairman, more and more Socialist cadres are set to follow.

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