Political Tensions Heighten in Greece before Sunday's General Elections

Southeast Europe | January 20, 2015, Tuesday // 17:45|  views

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, president of New Democracy party, speaks to supporters during a pre-election campaign rally at Athens` Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), in Athens, Greece, 19 January 2015. Photo: EPA

Greece is preparing for the parliamentary elections on Sunday, January 25, which were triggered by lawmakers' failure to elect a head of state. What follows is a brief overview of the main contenders' promises and aspirations.  

In an attempt to attract voters in view of the forthcoming early parliamentary elections, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised tax cuts and greater security for the country on Monday.

Samaras praised his party New Democracy as “the safe choice for Greece”, dismissing its main opponent and likely winner SYRIZA as being inconsistent, daily Kathimerini reports.

According to an opinion poll, conducted by the University of Macedonia for Skai television on Monday, SYRIZA increases its lead over New Democracy with 6.5%, attracting 33.5 % of the votes, while its opponent gathers 27 %.

To Potami ranks third with 7.5 % of the votes, followed by Golden Dawn and the Communist Party (KKE), which attract 5.5 % each and PASOK with 4.5 %.

Another survey conducted by Alco for the Proto Thema newspaper on Monday shows a narrower lead of 4.6 % for SYRIZA, which attracts 33.1 %, while New Democracy gathers 28.5 %.

Most opinion polls predict that To Potami will come in third place and thus play the role of a kingmaker if neither of the two leading parties wins outright majority.

In view of the approaching elections on Sunday, the main contenders, their electoral promises and the possible developments in case no single party wins an outright majority, are examined.

Two main favourites

New Democracy is the leading centre-right party in Greece, which makes the incumbent government in coalition with PASOK.

Although its leader and Greek Prime Minister Samaras has a higher personal approval than SYRIZA's Alexis Tsipras, his presidential candidate Stavros Dimas failed to attract the necessary parliamentary support on three instances, which triggered the early elections.

New Democracy has been proponent of austerity measures in exchange for the international bailout, but in its latest address its leader promised economic reform programme which will lead the country out of the crisis.

Samaras announced his intention on the reduction of corporate tax from 25 to 15 % and the scaling of the unified property tax (ENFIA)

SYRIZA is a radical left movement, which has been the main opposition party in Greece and the winner in the European Parliament elections in 2014.

Its support has increased due to its promises for the introduction of anti-austerity measures and the restructuring of the Greek public debt..

Although there were fears that a victory of the party in the parliamentary elections would lead to a Grexit, its leader Tsipras has assured that he will keep the country into the Euro zone.

SYRIZA has also envisaged the introduction of a fairer tax system and tackling large-scale tax evasion and corruption.

The party supports increased social spending and reversing the cuts in minimum wage and public spending.

Other contenders and possible kingmakers

To Potami (The River) is a centre-left party, founded in 2014 by a popular TV presenter, which is pro-European in its outlook.

Although it is identified as a possible kingmaker due to the high likelihood of finishing third in the election, this is questionable as SYRIZA has ruled out alliance with any parties except the Communists.

However SYRIZA's only acceptable partner the Communist Party, recently dismissed such cooperation, which aimed to “save the EU, the Euro and the big monopolies”, Kathimerini reports.

SYRIZA is unlikely to find a partner at the opposite end of the political spectrum dominated by another Eurosceptic party, Golden Dawn, which has been often described as neo-Nazi and fascist.

This opens the opportunity for two other players – PASOK and the newly-established Movement of Democratic Socialists of former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Both parties have expressed willingness to work together with the likely winner SYRIZA, but have certain disadvantages as contenders.

The Movement of Democratic Socialists, which split from PASOK, is in favour of keeping Greece in the Eurozone, reducing the country's debt and ending austerity, but is unlikely to pass the 3 % electoral threshold.

PASOK will most probably make it into parliament, but it carries the stigma of being a junior partner in the incumbent coalition government.

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Tags: greece, elections, New Democracy, Syriza, To Potami, golden dawn, KKE, PASOK, Movement of Democratic Socialists, Alexis Tsipras, Antonis Samaras, Stavros Dimas, George Papandreou


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