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New Democracy, PASOK Still Sliding, Golden Dawn Rising

Greeks are so disgusted with the country's ruling parties they are ready to give the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party seats in Parliament

ATHENS – With less than a month before an expected election to choose a new leader, support is waning for the two major parties that have taken turns ruling Greece for more than 35 years, the New Democracy Conservatives and their bitter rival PASOK Socialists who are sharing power in a shaky temporary hybrid government. Voters angry that the ideological opponents have joined to support austerity measures demanded by international lenders, which have created a deep recession of 21 percent unemployment and the closing of more than 111,000 businesses, are turning to anti-bailout parties, polls show.
A poll published in the Proto Thema newspaper showed the combined support for the two parties is somewhere between 34.3-40 percent, the high end representing a bump in popularity, a traditional swing as polls near. But the winning party needs 35-38 percent alone to be able to rule alone as it gets a 50-seat bonus in the 300-member Parliament and neither is even close. Another poll in newspaper Ethnos put the combined totals for the rivals at only 23.1 percent, little more than one-fourth of the 80 percent they commanded in the 2009 elections in which PASOK’s former leader, George Papandreou, unseated New Democracy’s Costas Karamanlis.
In the Proto Thema poll, New Democracy is leading with about 20.5 percent, compared to 13.8 percent for PASOK, but even if the two parties finish 1-2 in the election they would have to again join forces in a coalition, although New Democracy’s leader Antonis Samaras and PASOK’s new leader, former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, have rejected the notion.
That means the possibility of either a coalition with other parties or a fractured government that wouldn’t be able to carry out the Draconian pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and coming firing of 150,000 state workers over the next three years demanded by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that is putting up a first bailout of $152 billion and a second of $173 billion to prop up the country’s failed economy, sinking under decades of New Democracy and PASOK taking turns packing public payrolls with unneeded hires in return for votes, a common practice unlawful in many countries but ignored in Greece as a way of doing business.
The fractured results show that Greece is still deeply divided and that as many as eight or nine parties could be represented in the Parliament, including the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party which must meets the 3 percent threshold needed to gain seats, raising the specter of Greek lawmakers giving Heil Hitler salutes in a country which fought furiously against the Nazis in World War II, and showing the level of rage against the ruling parties. The KKE Stalinist Communist party is showing 7.5 percent, the Democratic Left at 5.8-6.7 percent and the Coalition of the Left SYRIZA part with 7.4 percent.
The far Right-Wing LAOS party, which briefly served in the coalition government now being overseen by interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, a former ECB Vice-President, is paying the price too for supporting austerity before it bolted in opposition, but too late to keep its support. LAOS is registering at only 1.9-2.9 percent, which means it would not be represented in Parliament, a potentially embarrassing setback for its leader, George Karatzaferis, who was a frequent media presence while serving in the coalition. Another 9.7-12.3 percent said they wouldn’t cast a vote and 7.9-14 percent said they haven’t decided what they are going to vote.

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