Main players halt decline

Recent opinion polls show that Greece’s two mainstream parties have managed to halt their decline, boosting morale among party officials in both camps. In truth however, the factors behind the crisis of the country’s two-party system remain. Ruling New Democracy and the main opposition PASOK are both in dire straits but the causes are different and so are the implications. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis finds comfort in two things. Firstly, his political capital is on the rise. Secondly, despite its decline, the conservative party still leads the polls by a comfortable margin. As a result, the conservative premier is virtually unchallenged, although his overall performance ranges from the mediocre to the disappointing. Greece’s stance at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest no doubt boosted the government’s image but it was no panacea for the conservatives’ ills. If it did one thing for ND, this was the reinforcement of the impression that Karamanlis can handle national issues with success, which has helped repair his damaged profile. But the optimism is not confined to ND headquarters. After a dramatic drop in opinion polls, PASOK’s political power appears to have stabilized. PASOK’s recent mobilization has no doubt played a role. But, more importantly, the image of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) is not as shiny as it once was. The stance of SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and his predecessor Alexos Alavanos on the Macedonia name dispute was not in line with public sentiment. On one hand the party underestimated the importance of the name dispute and, on the other, it took a negative approach toward the prime minister, appearing to lose all sense of moderation. The posturing of SYRIZA officials has taken a toll on the party’s ratings. As far as the two main rivals and the smaller SYRIZA party are concerned, there has been no qualitative change in the political scene. The two other small parties, namely the Communist Party (KKE) and the ultranationalist LAOS party, were affected by recent developments, but not in any major way. The outcome of the Bucharest summit had only a marginal impact. Despite failing to put on an impressive performance, Karamanlis has so far managed to maintain his political hegemony. Further developments will now depend on initiatives taken by him as well as by the opposition. However, public reactions should not be underestimated. Strike action is diminishing but the causes are very much alive. The government’s bid to advance its reform program is fueling social unrest that is taking an increasing toll on the administration.

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