by YIANNIS MAVRIS
The government’s latest failings and the relative deterioration of the general political and economic climate, as recorded in this month’s political barometer, clearly do not benefit the government’s standing, nor of course its electoral support. At the same time, even though the recently announced positive GDP data received excessive coverage in news media, public opinion appears to embrace the government’s “optimism” to a far lesser degree. In the November survey, just 6% of respondents believe that the economic crisis has “definitely passed”, while only 16% consider this assessment to be likely (“has probably passed” – 22% in total). Put differently, the government’s assertion that the crisis is “over” is not shared by ⅘ of voters. Indeed, 65% of respondents (2 in 3) are convinced that the crisis “has definitely not passed”. Inevitably, this gloomy picture, which once again discredits the government narrative of an “exit”, is attributed also to the person of the new Finance Minister, Gikas Hardouvelis, whose popularity has plummeted to a very low level (18%), comparable only to George Papaconstantinou’s rating in Spring 2011.
According to Public Issue’s monthly vote estimate (Figure 1), the voting intention for New Democracy remains unchanged in November (27%), while electoral support for the other government partner has dropped slightly (6%, -1%). After the decline recorded over the three-month summer period, ND’s strength has in effect recovered to the levels at which it had been from the beginning of the year to Spring.
In contrast, a sizeable segment of the electorate is increasingly turning to the main opposition party, pinning on the latter their hopes for a change in the government policy being implemented. SYRIZA’s voter support, following a decline in October, shows a resurgence in November (+3%) to reach 38.5%, a figure which – on the basis of the overall distribution of votes – would probably even give the party a parliamentary majority.
As a result of this two-fold trend, the new two-party system is being strengthened. The aggregate percentage of electoral support for the two parties is estimated at 65.5%, which marks the highest point of the three-year period 2012-2014. At the same time, it marks a return to the – pre-Memorandum – levels of the old system, in 2010.
SYRIZA’s rise had begun before the European elections (Figure 1), but gathered momentum after them also as a political result of its double victory at the polls (Euro elections, Attica Region). In the five months since elections, growing social expectations for a change of government have taken the form of a broadly diverse surge in electoral support for SYRIZA. The manifestation of this trend, which can be seen in the current survey too, also explains why voter support for the other opposition parties remains unchanged at low levels or is declining.
What is striking is that on the basis of the (more reliable) aggregate data of Public Issue’s monthly political barometer surveys for the three-month period September-November, the party’s “old” voters (i.e. those who voted for SYRIZA in June 2012) account for only 57% of its present electoral support. Consequently, the fact that the remaining 43%, or 4 in 10 of its present voters, have come from other parties or groupings undoubtedly points to an impressive electoral and political enlargement. In normal circumstances, i.e. without the interpolation of extraordinary events of considerable influence (e.g. tension in the Aegean, terrorist incident, etc.) such a picture has rarely been overturned in the past. This assessment is further backed by the maintenance of the direct (from one camp to another) shift of a percentage of ND voters to SYRIZA (Figure 2).
The enlargement taking place is at the same time setting clear limits, regarding the degree of ideological and political cohesion of this surge in support for SYRIZA. This is something whose importance has been demonstrated historically, from as early as the 1980s. The emergent swing in public opinion, which is accompanied by a widening gap in the expected election winner in favor of SYRIZA (68%, against 22% for ND – a historic high for the period 2012-2014), is entirely in line with the tradition of voting behavior in Greece. The expectation of a change of government through parliamentary means, as a by-product of the political culture that was consolidated by the two-party system since the restoration of democracy in 1974, holds firm. However, the fact that the political and electoral developments being observed are taking place in conditions of growing political apathy should not escape one’s attention. At the same time, participation in all kinds of protest action has declined significantly. After the dramatic rise in social protest in the period 2011-12, it now stands at the lowest levels of the period 2011-2014.
Date of publication: 24/11/2014
Publication: Newspaper ““Editors’ Newspaper” (Efimerida ton Syntakton – EFSYN)