Are Greeks so volatile or are the polls misleading?

Are Greeks so volatile or are the polls misleading?

Athens, January 18, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Spiros Sideris

Probably both of the assumptions are true and false at the same time. Two polls show that the conservative main opposition party of New Democracy is leading over SYRIZA by 3.3% and one might deduct that the election of a Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the leadership of the conservative New Democracy  might have influenced the right wing and the centrist-right wing citizens in voting in favour of ND. The two separately conducted polls give 21.3% to New Democracy and 18% to SYRIZA and 23.6 % and 19.9% respectively.

But the truth is that in the last elections many disappointed Greeks, right wing, centrist or leftists, abstained -thinking among other things that no matter whom  they vote for, the governing “party” will inevitably be the lenders who impose their policies through the memorandums. This extremely high (for Greece) abstention percentage (almost 45%) does not help much in predicting the results of next elections judging by polls that are conducted sometimes in haste or anyway not in an absolutely scientific manner. Since nobody knows the “composition” of this 45% of the abstention on September  (that is the ideological stance of the citizens who had chosen not to vote) nor the future percentage of abstention in the elections to come sometime in the future, the results of the polls might prove misleading. For example, when the poll concludes that SYRIZA fell to 19.9%, the truth is that it fell compared to 35.46% of the final  result of the elections WITHOUT taking into account the abstention. Once the abstention is taken into account, then in absolute numbers of voting citizens the party of SYRIZA did not take the 36% of the votes, but less then 19%.  So there is no drop in the absolute percentage of votes SYRIZA got.

Still in both polls that were conducted for two newspapers there is a leading of 3.3 and more in favour of New Democracy. Does this lead to safe conclusions for the elections to come? Not necessarily.

One reason is the “source” of this 3.3 plus. Is it the result of new hopes of right wing voters who voted for another party in the last elections? And which party is this which party  loses the right wing voters that seem to prefer now New Democracy? Or this 3.3% comes from the “reservoir”  of the abstention, that is from voters who did not vote four months ago?

Another reason to doubt the meaning of this lead of New Democracy is the fact that 4 months after any election, any government faces what is called the “natural wear of power”, that is a drop on the percentage of any governing party.

A third factor that makes it hard to predict is the new electoral system that SYRIZA plans to bring to the Parliament –an electoral law closer to proportional representation with much fewer seats as a bonus to the first party.  For the moment the first party gets an extra of 50 seats that can make it possible for it to form absolute majority in the 300 seats parliament and pass bills and generally rule. If the law changes, then everything will depend on parliamentary and electoral coalitions. This is perhaps the main reason socialist and centrist parties try to reinvent their ideological stance –they know that in the next elections  they will have to cooperate with other parliamentary forces.

A fourth reason that the polls do not really count, is that inevitably the “triumph” of “centrist” Mitsotakis will be short-lived. There is no triumph after all in wining for Mitsotakis, since it took three contesters to unite against one –against the traditional right wing and populist as they blame him Meimarakis. So the victory of Mitsotakis  was far from clear and he knows it. He managed to be elected with a marginal difference, and that means that he can not be as modern and centrist as he planned. If he is not to be held responsible for the break up of his party  in two or more pieces, he will have to succumb to some populist and traditional tactics of his opponent. In other words, he can not neglect the traditionally right wing part of the voters of New Democracy nor their populism and (of course) their objections to the memurandums. If he chooses to pretend to be a centrist, a quite important percentage of his voters might turn to the extreme right wing Golden Dawn or another party that might formulate in the right wing of the political forces that till know  are represented by New Democracy  in Greece.

A fifth reason that the polls say little if anything, is that no matter the discontent with the governing party of SYRIZA, voters do know that New Democracy is a conservative party that deeply supports many of the unpopular measures the lenders impose. On the contrary, SYRIZA passes unpopular bills admitting that it is doing so under the pressure of the lenders. So no matter how volatile Greeks are and how much they might be disappointed by SYRIZA, they do know that Mitsotakis and New Democracy embrace –with the exception of the social security bill- most of the strict measures of the memorandums as almost “necessary and positive for  the nation’s economy”.

Specifically according to two opinion poll results by Alco and Metron Analysis respectively those ae the answers of the respondents:

New Democracy (main opposition, right wing): 21.3%  and 23.6% (28. 09 in the last elections)

SYRIZA (governing party, centre-left): 18% and 19.9%  (35. 46 in the last elections)

KKE (communist party): 5.4% and 4.6% (5.55 in the last elections)

Golden Dawn (extreme right): 5.2% and 4.6%  (6,.99 in the last elections)

Democratic Coalition (PASOK-DIMAR, socialdemocatic parties): 3.1% and 4.1% (6.29 in the last elections)

Union’s Centrists: 2.6% and 2,7% (3.44%  in the  last elections)

Independent Greeks (ANEL, centre-right): 1.9% and 2.1%  the last elections)

Potami (centrist): 1.6% and 2.2% (4.09 in the last elections)

Popular Unity (leftist): 1.3% and 2.3%  (2.86 in the last elections)

Other party: 4.1% and 2.4%

Indecisive: 20%

None (they will abstain): 14.4%