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New Democracy Downplays Attica Election Setback

elections-for-Greek-municipalitiesThe ruling New Democracy Conservatives, stung from a poor showing in Athens and the Attica region in the May 18 first round of Greek municipal elections, said the party was doing better across the country and would rally in the May 25 balloting for the European Parliament.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ party was ahead in polls but slipped behind in the country’s most populous area to the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which apparently benefited from continuing voter rage over austerity measures the coalition government, which includes the PASOK Socialists, imposed on orders of international lenders.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras had said that the ruling parties would be repudiated and that his party would roll to a big win in the European Union contests and force snap elections before the government’s term runs out in 2016.
“The best goals are scored in the second round,” said SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras as he left the party’s headquarters.
New Democracy was losing in returns four hours after the polls closed in Athens and Attica, but did well in other regions where the Leftists performed so poorly they wouldn’t have a candidate in the May 25 run-off between the two two candidates in races for Mayors, Governors, and prefectures, such as Macedonia, Thrace and Epirus.
New Democracy said the setbacks it suffered would not have any impact on voter reaction for the European Parliament elections although polls showed SYRIZA widening its lead there. New Democracy officials told Kathimerini that the results mirrored the 2012 national elections which the party won despite losing in the Athens-Attica area.
Samaras’ decision to hand pick lawmaker Aris Spiliotopoulos to run against Athens Mayor George Kaminis – who was behind SYRIZA’s Gavriil Sakellaridis – backfired when former Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who was in New Democracy then, decided to run against Spiliotopoulos and siphoned off critical votes.
New Democracy’s candidate for Thessaloniki mayor, Stavros Kalafatis, also came in behind incumbent Yiannis Boutaris, who is supported by PASOK and DIMAR.
In Thessaloniki, residents were also asked to vote on whether they were in favor of plans to privatize the local water and sewage company, EYATH. The non-binding vote was organized by local officials and opponents of the sell-off. A last minute objection from the Interior Ministry meant that the ballot boxes had to be placed outside polling centers.
Initial results indicated that as many as 98 percent of those who took part in the vote opposed EYATH’s privatization. However, critics of the plebiscite pointed out that apart from being unofficial there were also questions about the vote’s reliability as the ballot boxes were transparent and ballot papers were not placed in envelopes.
A Kapa Research poll carried out for To Vima and Reuters indicated that SYRIZA has a considerable lead over New Democracy in the EU races.
The survey gave SYRIZA a 27.4-22.7 percent lead over New Democracy, with the Greece ‘s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn third at 8.7 percent, just ahead of the new populist, anti-politician To Potami (The River) at 8.1 percent.
They were followed by the Communist Party (KKE) at 6.4 percent and PASOK’s center-left alliance, the Olive Tree, trailing at 6.2 percent.
After that was the Independent Greeks at 4 percent and the former coalition partner Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 1.4 percent. Of those questioned, 7.3 percent said they would vote for other parties and 7.8 percent said they had not decided who to support.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who was elevated to Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister after backing the firing of workers last year at the now defunct state broadcaster ERT, said if the party flops that the government could be brought down.
That also would essentially end PASOK, which won the 2009 national elections with 44 percent before then-Prime Minister George Papandreou had to ask the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) for what turned into two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion).
That came with conditions of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that sparked protests, strikes and riots that had largely alleviated in the last year as Samaras said Greece, in the midst of  a crushing economic crisis, was finally on the road to recovery.
But that hasn’t helped reduce a record unemployment rate and deep poverty, and the early results in the municipal elections seemed to show the the level of voter dissatisfaction with the ruling parties.

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