As predicted, the upcoming (second) Greek election is increasingly looking like a showdown between the two key figures of the pro-bailout and anti-austerity camps — between Antonis Samaras, the leader of the center-right New Democracy (Νέα Δημοκρατία) and Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the leftist SYRIZA (the Coalition of the Radical Left — Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς).
Polls show that New Democracy may be regaining momentum against SYRIZA, which had jumped into the lead in polls following the election and during the coalition talks that failed to produce a viable government. Each of the two parties can point to polls showing a lead, with nearly a month to go until Greeks return to the polls. Both parties are polling over 20% after an election in which no single party won over one-fifth of a historically fragmented electorate.
Both leaders are already sniping at one another in advance of June 17 elections, the second in two months in Greece, amid global concern that the possibility of an anti-bailout government’s election could lead to Greece’s exit from the eurozone (with a fear that the process of ‘de-euroization’ has already begun and could well accelerate — capital flowing out of not just Greek banks, but banks in Spain, Portugal and Italy as well).
Tsipras on Tuesday was in Berlin, after a visit to Paris on Monday with popular leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon (pictured above), with the dual goals of calming fears about a potential SYRIZA-led government (Tsipras does not want Greece to leave the eurozone, but would like to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s bailout and austerity measures, four years into a devastating recession) and also building common cause with European leftists. Tsipras has couched his electoral success in terms of a wider turn across Europe from austerity towards a more growth-oriented policy, as evidenced by the election of leftist anti-austerity François Hollande in France:
“Greece is a link in a chain. If it breaks it is not just the link that is broken but the whole chain. What people have to understand is that the Greek crisis concerns not just Greece but all European people so a common European solution has to be found,” Tsipras told reporters.
ND won the incredibly fragmented May election with just 19% of the vote to 17% for SYRIZA, which displaced Greece’s traditional leftist party, PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement – Πανελλήνιο Σοσιαλιστικό Κίνημα), which took only 13%. Another four parties won enough support to enter the Hellenic parliament, however, including the right-wing anti-bailout Independent Greeks (11%), the KKE, Greece’s Communist Party (8%), the neo-fascist Golden Dawn (7%) and yet another leftist anti-bailout group, the Democratic Left (6%). Two other parties, the orthodox LAOS and the Ecological Greens, received just under the required 3% necessary to win seats in parliament.
The enhanced polling strength of SYRIZA — and now ND — may mean that fewer voters will flock to alternative parties. Indeed, ND’s increasing strength (rather than the consolidation of more anti-bailout votes behind SYRIZA) will put incredible pressure on PASOK, the other pro-bailout party, in the June election.