Opening for a third force?

Opinion polls show New Democracy enjoying a 2.5 percent lead over the PASOK opposition, while conservative leader Costas Karamanlis is still considered best suited to be premier. But ND’s hegemony is more fragile than it looks. Asked about the best government for the country, a plurality of those polled turned their backs on both mainstream parties. Some 38 percent said none of the two main factions was adequate; ND was picked by 33 percent while just 15 percent preferred a Socialist government. PASOK’s failure to capitalize on ND’s vulnerability may give Karamanlis room to maneuver. But it does not compensate for ND’s decline – a significant one for a party in power less than two years. Its credibility has also been tarnished: 51 percent said the conservatives have not met their pre-election promises while 26 percent said they had. The government appears to depend more on PASOK’s failings than its own political appeal, so the margin between the two contenders is thinner than poll figures indicate. Worse, economic troubles besetting lower-income groups will only make the government’s task harder. The battlefield will once again be the economy and people’s daily problems. If the government manages to improve its performance in this area its road to a second term will be much easier. Otherwise ND’s political horizon will darken. Opinion polls in the spring should give a clearer picture of this. However the fact that four in 10 citizens reject both mainstream parties underscores the crisis in Greece’s political system. The situation has fed scenarios about the emergence of a third force to challenge the two-party system. Although business and media figures have aired the idea, the birth of an alternative political force still seems a remote scenario.

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