As the government struggled on Monday to put out a political fire that started raging when police used tear gas and pepper spray against protesting pensioners in central Athens, a new poll Monday showed that it is lagging even further behind the conservative main opposition.
The survey conducted by the University of Macedonia on behalf of Skai TV – asking a sample of the public who they would vote for if elections were held today – showed that New Democracy has extended its lead by 2 percent, compared to September, to 28.5 percent – 12.5 percent ahead of ruling SYRIZA, which took 16 percent.
Far-right Golden Dawn came in third with 7.5 percent, ahead of the Communist Party (KKE) with 5.5 percent and Democratic Alignment on 4.5 percent, which has seen a 1 percent drop in support since last month.
Both the junior coalition partner, Independent Greeks (ANEL), and the Union of Centrists polled 2 percent, while To Potami was at 1.5 percent. All three parties were below the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament.
What was immediately apparent from the results is that the government failed to get the boost it anticipated from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s keynote speech at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair in early September.
If anything, his administration’s credibility received another blow, as 86.5 percent of those surveyed said that they were “not satisfied” with the government’s performance, up from 85.5 percent in September. Just 5 percent said they were satisfied.
When asked whether Tsipras or ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis had presented the more credible program for the country’s future in Thessaloniki, just 8.5 percent picked the PM, compared to 22.5 percent that opted for the conservative leader. However, a significant 42.5 percent said neither of them presented a convincing plan.
Tellingly, 73.5 percent of people who returned SYRIZA to power in September 2015 also said they were not satisfied with the government.
Pouring yet more misery on the leftist-led coalition, 85 percent of those polled said they believed that “matters are moving in the wrong direction” – up four points compared to September – while just 15.5 percent said they believed the ruling coalition “had anything more to offer to the country,” compared to 69.5 percent that said it didn’t.
A total of 64.5 percent said the recent government-sponsored tender of TV broadcast licenses served political expediencies.
The survey comes as the government plans a new batch of tough measures for the winter, targeting labor laws and lifting mortgage protections.
Earlier in the day, Tsipras chided Alternate Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas over the tear-gassing of pensioners protesting against new cuts at a demonstration near the PM’s office, and police later announced it was indefinitely suspending the use of tear gas at rallies of workers and pensioners.
Protest organizer Dimos Koumbouris told reporters that pensioners were “fighting for their lives” and that they have become “desperate.”
The incident occurred when senior demonstrators tried to overturn a riot police bus, with officers responding with the use of chemicals, sparking a vehement reaction from opposition parties.