17th Feb 2019

Greek election still too close to call

  • New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis called for a "government of national responsibility" (Photo: New Democracy)

The campaign for Sunday's (20 September) Greek election is reaching fever pitch, with parties holding their last meetings and the result is as uncertain as ever.

In a new poll published by Kathimerini newspaper and Skai TV, centre-right New Democracy (ND) passes the 30 percent of voting intentions threshold, nudging ahead of left-wing Syriza, with 29.5 percent.

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But two other recent polls put Syriza in the lead. In a poll for Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper, former PM Alexis Tsipras' party gets 28 percent of voting intentions, against 24 percent for ND. And a poll for To Vima daily gives 29 percent for Syriza against 28.4 for ND.

The number of undecided voters, who could swing the election one way or the other, remain high. The number currently stands at 6 percent, according to the Kathimerini-Skai TV poll and 15 percent, according to Efimerida ton Syntakton.

With all other parties under 10 percent, the main question will be whether Syriza or New Democracy can form a coalition to have a majority in Parliament and for a government.

In a meeting on Wednesday (16 September), ND leader Vangelis Meimarakis said he would call on all parties to form a government of "cooperation, understanding and national responsibility".

On Tuesday, Tsipras once again ruled out any left-right coalition, saying it would be "unnatural".

'Second referendum'

After a first general election won by Syriza in January and a referendum on bailout plans that revealed deep divisions in July, Meimarakis positions himself as a conciliatory force.

"The truth of the matter is that in recent years we realised that without understanding and collaboration Greece cannot go forwards," he said in an interview with Euronews.

"It’s no coincidence that in all the other countries that were in a bailout program or are still in one, or are about to come out of such a program, their political powers and all their ruling parties got together in order to implement a program they agreed in common, without giving up their political or ideological autonomy."

Tsipras, meanwhile, is presenting Sunday's election as a "second referendum" that would consolidate Syriza's power after he lost his party majority when the Parliament voted on the bailout programme.

"The battle of September 20 is the second great referendum for the future of our people and our country," he said at a rally on Wednesday.

"On Sunday we vote to reject the return of the old status quo of servitude, dependence, corruption and vested interests," he said, adding that "every vote lost by Syriza is a vote won for New Democracy".

A TV debate between the two leaders on Monday did not seem to change voters' views. According to the Kathimerini-Skai TV poll, 31 percent of respondents said Meimarakis won the debate, and 30.5 percent said it was Tsipras. 34.5 percent thought there was no winner.

Meanwhile, neo-nazi party Golden Dawn held a electoral rally in Athens on Wednesday. It is set to remain Greece's third party on Sunday with a 6-7 percent share of the vote.

Golden Dawn, whose leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, is still on trial for money laundering and murder, stirred controversy this week with an electoral TV advertisement featuring children saying they want "Greece to belong to Greeks".

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Syriza emerged as the big winner in Sunday's elections, with 35.47 percent of the vote. It will re-enter the Greek parliament with 145 seats, only four less than its landslide victory earlier this year.

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