Greek anti-bailout leftists regain opinion poll lead


ATHENS — Greece’s leftist opposition party has regained a narrow lead over the ruling conservatives, two opinion polls published on Saturday said. A survey by Pulse for the 6 Imeres newspaper put support for Syriza at 24 percent, giving it a 1.5-percentage-point lead over New Democracy but still within the margin of error of 2.7 percent. A separate poll by Metron Analysis for the Eleftherotypia newspaper put support for Syriza at 19.5 percent, giving it a narrow lead of 0.9 percent over New Democracy. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy party, which won elections in June with 29.6 percent of the vote, has been neck-and-neck with the anti-bailout Syriza in recent polls.

“(The poll) does not show a clear trend or direction, nor does any party currently display the type of momentum that could lead to a serious reversal,” Pulse head Yorgos Arapoglou wrote in the newspaper. New Democracy trailed Syriza for months following the June 17 vote but managed to grab a poll lead in January after securing international bailout funds to avert bankruptcy and allay doubts over Greece’s future in the euro.

Samaras has since been eager to show the country’s lenders — the European Union and International Monetary Fund — that he is sticking to reforms promised in exchange for aid and also facing down powerful unions. The aid has come at the price of steep cuts to wages and pensions. Greeks have seen living standards crumble after six years of recession and three years of austerity.

In an interview with the Real News newspaper, Samaras said Greece was fulfilling its obligations towards its lenders to push ahead with structural reforms, cut red tape and speed up privatizations without imposing extra cuts. “Of course society has reached its limits. The point is not to pile on more sacrifices, the point is to do whatever it takes to ensure its sacrifices pay off,” Samaras told the paper. Public anger against the measures has been growing and strikes have been frequent in recent weeks.

Twice during its eight-month rule, the government threatened striking seamen and subway workers with arrest, ordering them back to the job under an emergency law invoked in cases of civil disorder, natural disasters or public health risks. Despite the strikers’ actions paralyzing public transport in the capital and causing food shortages on islands, the Pulse poll found Greeks were equally divided over the coalition’s stance on the protests, with 45 percent disagreeing and 44 percent agreeing.