Early exit polling from Greece, in the second election to try to form a government in as many months, shows an incredibly narrow race between the center-right New Democracy party and the far-left Syriza party. It raises the possibility that no single party could form a government again, which would mean yet another potential round of voting, and the attendant uncertainty.
Results of the first exit poll announced on Sunday showed that Greece’s general election was too close to call, with the centre-right New Democracy party holding a lead of only half a point over the radical left Syriza coalition.
The survey conducted by six leading Greek pollsters before the polls closed gave the conservatives 27.5-30.5 per cent of the vote to 27.0-30.0 per cent for Syriza.
The PanHellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) trailed in third place with 10-12 per cent. The moderate Democratic Left party was set to capture 5.5-6.5 per cent.
Whatever the final result, the frontrunner would be unable to win a majority in the 300-seat house, capturing between 125 and 130 seats, pollster Costas Panagopoulos told state television.
The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party holds 6-7.5% of the vote in this first exit poll, with the lead Communist party at 5-6%.
The Financial Times claims that either winner would be able to form a coalition government. It is true that Syriza and New Democracy have a higher percentage of votes than they received in the first round. And the winner of the elections gets a 50-seat bonus in Parliament, which makes it easier to form a government. But last time around, basically nobody would join a coalition with anyone else, including natural allies. Presumably Pasok and New Democracy, the legacy parties, would join a coalition together, but they may not have quite enough votes on their own to reach a majority. And Syriza, running against the legacy parties, nevertheless doesn’t have buy-in from the Communists or even the Democratic Left (a more moderate splinter from Pasok) to form a coalition. So the prospects of a double-nightmare scenario are very real.
As we have been chronicling, New Democracy was one of the parties that negotiated the original bailout and austerity terms, and while in recent weeks they have said they would like to tweak the agreement, they are seen as solidly within the consensus of staying in the euro, and it probably would not take much from creditors to satisfy them. Syriza has said that they would make the bailout agreement null and void, though they claim to want to stay in the euro and simply re-negotiate the terms. Eurozone leaders, especially Germany, have raised the threat of a Greek exit from the euro in this event, but everyone is basically playing a game of chicken. Syriza is daring the troika (EU, ECB, IMF) to expel Greece, believing they wouldn’t risk contagion. Germany is daring the Greek electorate to pick Syriza, believing they wouldn’t risk euro expulsion. So it’s hard to drill down to the layers of reality beyond the huge bluff on both sides.
Analysts properly describe the election as a choice between anger and fear. Fear drives Greek voters to the legacy parties, wary of a Eurozone exit; anger drives them to Syriza, fed up with the austerity-induced depression.
More as it develops…