Opinion polls bode ill for the opposition

We can probably take recent polls on the issue of the structured bonds scandal and its political ramifications as reliable indicators of public opinion, despite the fact that they coincided with a mass exodus of citizens from the capital at the weekend in view of the May Day holiday. The first conclusion to be drawn from the polls is that most voters believe that the official reason given by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for dismissing Labor and Social Security Minister Savvas Tsitouridis was merely a pretext. Indeed, the decision to sack Tsitouridis was taken nearly two months after the bond scandal first broke out. It may be that such a bold move was inevitable after such a long delay, and perhaps it was taken with certain «public relations» goals in mind. But the public didn’t really fall for it, at least according to the polls. For nearly three-quarters of respondents (72.6 percent) expressed the view that the dismissal of Tsitouridis was not enough and that more heads would have to roll before responsibility for the scandal had been properly attributed. Another significant proportion of respondents (61.2 percent) judged Karamanlis’s handling of the bonds scandal to have been «maladroit.» Nevertheless, 51 percent of respondents opined that Karamanlis’s recent decisions demonstrated political maturity. So can one actually draw an overall conclusion from these results? The same poll shows that 60.3 percent of respondents regard the government’s performance to date (irrespective of the bond scandal) as «unfavorable.» But what is truly remarkable is that an even greater proportion of respondents (61.9 percent) have the same view when it comes to the main opposition party PASOK. This illustrates quite clearly that – despite the generally negative picture being presented by the government – the main opposition has evidently failed to take advantage and exploit it for its own ends. It is interesting to note that, despite the government’s obvious problems, more than half of the electorate (53.1 percent) continue to favorably regard Karamanlis as prime minister, while 57 percent view PASOK leader George Papandreou in a negative light. According to another poll, PASOK has not only failed to fully exploit the government’s failures but its popularity has actually declined (with 35 percent now saying they would vote PASOK as opposed to 36 percent in March). It is quite clear that PASOK’s leadership should sit down and draw its own conclusions from these poll results, in an effort to determine where the party’s weak points lie. One thing is for sure: if the main opposition party continues to perform so badly during such an unfortunate period for the government, it is more or less certain that the ruling party will win the next general elections.