Greek opposition keeps poll lead as austerity bites

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 28, 2012 6:21 AM
Greek opposition keeps poll lead as austerity bites

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's leftist opposition party Syriza kept its opinion poll lead over the ruling Conservatives as austerity cuts continued to take their toll on voters, a survey showed on Wednesday.

If elections were held today, Syriza, which fiercely opposes the country's 130-billion-euro bailout, would win with 29 percent of the vote and a 2.8-percentage point lead over New Democracy, the poll by Marc for TV station Alpha found.

Syriza, a relatively unknown party outside Greece before repeat elections in May and June, was catapulted into the spotlight on its promises to tear up the bailout keeping Greece afloat.

Analysts said the party's continuing popularity under its youthful, 38-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras was more likely due to a loss of confidence in the ruling coalition than to a surge in support for Syriza's proposals.

"They have a lead but this is not down to a new wave of support for Syriza, but rather to a drop in support for the coalition government," said Marc head Thomas Gerakis.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's New Democracy party beat Syriza by a margin of 2.7 percentage points in the repeat election on June 17.

But the coalition's popularity took a hit after Samaras passed a new round of cuts to wages and pension earlier this month to unlock further rescue payments, breaking his pre-election promise to soften the bailout's terms.

Greeks have seen their living standards fall severely during Greece's five-year recession that has thrown one in four out of work.

Most Greeks - 60.2 percent - were worried they could lose their job.

Almost everyone - 99.6 percent - had cut back on clothes spending, 26.8 percent on medication, 17.5 percent on bread and 16.2 percent on milk, the poll found.

The poll, carried out between November 23-26 using a sample of 1,011 people, showed support for the Samaras's coalition allies - Socialist PASOK and Democratic Left - stood at 6.4 and 6.1 percent respectively from 13.3 and 6.1 percent in June.

Support for the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn stood at 12.4 percent against 7 percent in the election, the poll found.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Andrew Heavens)