Political parties contesting in the Greek general election on Sunday (25 January) are focusing their attention on the 10% of voters who still say they are undecided.
The far-left Syriza party, which has led the opinion polls over the past year and seems likely to win the election, may still fall short of an overall majority.
An average of opinion polls published by Greek newspaper Kathimerini puts Syriza in the lead with 34.7% of the vote, with New Democracy, the centre-right party led by Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, behind on 30.3%. The winning party is given an extra 50 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament, but even with this bonus Syriza, with a predicted 148 seats, compared to New Democracy on 87, would fail to win a majority.
Attention is therefore turning to potential coalition partners. The opinion polls suggest that four smaller parties will reach the 3% threshold to enter the Greek parliament. The centre-left To Potami would get around 7% of the vote, ahead of the far-right Golden Dawn with 6.2%, the communist KKE with 5.6% and centre-left junior coalition partner PASOK on 4.7%. The right-wing Independent Greeks grouping is predicted to reach the 3% threshold to enter parliament.
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The KKE has ruled out co-operation with Syriza, despite Syriza’s communist roots. Panos Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, said that certain conditions would have to be met before he would join a Syriza-led government, though they agree on the key issue of austerity.
If no party wins a majority, Greek President Karolos Papoulias, whose term in office ends in February, will give the leader of the largest party three days to form a government. If he fails, the leader of the second-placed party will try to broker a coalition, and in due course the third-largest party could also try.
If no deal is agreed by 4 February, Papoulias would issue an ultimatum to the party leaders to broker an agreement. If the ultimatum goes unheeded, he would call new elections and dissolve the parliament. An additional complication is that the process could cut across the end of Papoulias’s term as president. Papoulias will therefore call upon the members of the parliament elected by 25 January to appoint his successor swiftly.
New Democracy believes it could still win over some of the undecided voters, as well as those inclined to support To Potami and Pasok. Samaras is actively campaigning against statements on anti-austerity measures made by Syriza.
The prime minister said that contrary to Syriza, which wants to renegotiate Greece’s bail-out conditions with its international lenders, New Democracy would “take it step by step without going into public deficit again”. He stresses that the country needs an end to political uncertainty.
But voters, hit hard by austerity measures, seem to be turning away from the traditional ruling parties in search of a different approach. Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s leader, said if he becomes prime minister, “there will be no more austerity and no more Troika” – a reference to the trio of international institutions funding Greece’s bail-out.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said that “any future Greek government will have to respect commitments already made and continue reforms”.