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Dueling Last Polls Show SYRIZA, New Democracy Both in First

ATHENS – After trading places with the New Democracy Conservatives in the race to see who will win the critical June 17 elections that could determine whether Greece will leave the Eurozone and into what critics said would be an economic Armageddon, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party that wants to renegotiate terms of the country’s bailouts has jumped into a six-point lead in one final survey before voting – but is still second in another.
In the last polls allowed before the voting, a Public Issue Survey by the newspaper Kathimerini gave SYRIZA 31.5 percent of the vote, almost double its 16.7 percent showing last month and six points ahead of New Democracy, while PASOK, stuck in third place, fell two points to 13.5 percent, followed by the Democratic Left at 7.5 percent, the slumping Independent Greeks tied with the KKE Communists at 5.5 percent, and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn garnering 4.5 percent, a drop of 1.6 percent from May 6 but still enough to get into Parliament.
The Kathimerini survey was at odds with another done by Kapa Research that showed New Democracy having a 26.1-23.6 lead over SYRIZA and with PASOK sinking to 9.9 percent. Still, the Kapa results showed a chance that New Democracy and PASOK could have enough of the votes to form another coalition, although critics said it may not be considered a legitimate government if a majority of Greeks oppose them. Kapa’s poll was conducted May 29 to May 31. The overall margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.
And in another of the contradictions that have marked the campaign, the Kathimerini poll showed that 58 percent of Greeks said they believe New Democracy will come back to win, with only 34 percent thinking the Leftists will hold onto their lead. Some 80 percent of Greeks are opposed to continuing austerity measures – as is SYRIZA – but the same number don’t want Greece leaving the Eurozone, supporting New Democracy and the PASOK Socialists stance.
The Kathimerini poll showed that while SYRIZA would win – with two weeks to go the tables could turn yet again in a volatile atmosphere of anger against austerity but fear of being pushed out of the Eurozone – that its leader, Alexis Tsipras, would not have enough of the vote to form a party and would need to try to form a coalition. In the stalemated May 6 elections which New Democracy won, but with only 18.8 percent of the vote, five of the seven parties who won enough seats to enter Parliament were against the austerity measures demanded by international lenders and got 68 percent of the vote.
The soaring rise of SYRIZA came after Tsipras launched an all-out assault on New Democracy and PASOK, who shared a temporary coalition and supported the pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions that have worsened a deep recession, creating 21.7 percent unemployment and led to the closing of 1,000 businesses a week. Louka Katseli, a former PASOK minister who now leads the small leftist party Social Pact, joined with SYRIZA and Tsipras, declaring support for “genuine, progressive forces.”
GRASPING AT STRAWS
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos have warned that a victory by anti-austerity parties who are able to form a government would push Greece out of the Eurozone of the 17 countries using the euro. The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) putting up a first bailout of $152 billion and a pending second rescue package of $173 billion has warned that any attempt by the next government to tinker with reforms could lead to the money pipeline being shut off, but has been sending signals he would bend to Tsipras’ demands and be willing to renegotiate some of the terms. His pounding against austerity has apparently registered with Greeks weary of seeing their lifestyle reduced while the country’s rich elite, politicians and tax evaders have largely gone without sacrifice, even though the Troika said Greece has to pay the price for New Democracy and PASOK padding public payrolls for generations in return for votes.
Seeing their support slip, Samaras and Venizelos have also said they would try to redo some of the measures, while at the same time saying they still supported them. Samaras said he would pledge not to raise taxes or make any more cuts at the same time he would follow the Troika’s orders to raise taxes and make more cuts. He said that an additional $15 billion in cuts the Troika wants could be spread over four years, although the group wants it done immediately.
Venizelos, who as finance minister in the brief coalition doubled income and property taxes and taxed the poor, has largely been out of public view during a curious campaign in which none of the leading figures have made public appearances that weren’t party rallies. Samaras said he would try to reverse the pension cuts he supported too.
If the current survey numbers held, which many analysts see as unlikely, SYRIZA would get 134 seats in the 300-member Parliament and would need to find 17 more to have a majority. New Democracy would get 68 seat, PASOIK, 36, the Democratic Left  20, KKE and the Independent Greeks 15, and Golden Dawn, which wants immigrants out of Greece but has seen support slip after some of its supporters have been accused of being immigrants and its leader denying the Holocaust, would get 12 seats.
Curiously, Tspiras has a 49 percent favor ability rating, while Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis is the most popular party head with 67 percent. The survey came before Tspiras, who has been criticized for having no economic plan, revealing his fiscal policies that he said could redo the austerity terms but keep Greece in the Eurozone.
Speaking to SKAI TV, a member of the party’s economic team, Giorgos Stathakis, insisted that the next government would not run out of money soon despite fears that the Troika may stop loans to Athens. “There is enough money for pensions and wages. A shortage of liquidity will only arise in the last two months of the year,” he said. “I think we will have a solution by then.”
Speaking to reporters, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said that the Washington-based fund is willing to listen to “any new ideas” that the next Greek government has with respect to how the fiscal targets agreed as part of the bailout can be achieved more effectively. Rice also said IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, regretted recent remarks concerning tax evasion by Greeks and comparing their suffering to children in Niger. “She regrets her remarks were misunderstood and caused offense, that was not her intention.”

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