December 23, 2014

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Preparing for snap elections in Greece

The second round of the presidential vote in Greece will begin at 11.00 CET today, with the result likely to be known an hour later. We will give you a short update later today.

Greek media reported yesterday that Samaras' candidate could get as much as 169 votes in the second round, still 11 short of the 180 vote threshold required in the decisive third vote, leaving the race still too close to call, according to Reuters. It is certain that the government will not get the backing of 200 votes required to elect a candidate today.

The overture of Antonis Samaras - promising government posts and elections by the end of 2015 in return for backing Dimas - had been an option prepared for after the second vote, though the coalition leaders decided to advance the announcement after the less-than-impressive result in the first vote last week and a sharp spike in tensions triggered by the claims of Independent Greeks MP Pavlos Haikalis that a mediator tried to bribe him to back the government.

The prosecutor, meanwhile, shelved the investigation into the bribery claims by Haikalis on Monday, concluding in his report that there was no evidence to support the lawmaker’s allegations. The audio and video material, ostensibly showing a bribery attempt, was deemed illegal material, writes Kathimerini.  Syriza and Independent Greeks both slammed the prosecutor’s decision to shelve the probe, suggesting that the swiftness of the decision raised questions about the impartiality of judicial authorities.

All parties are now actively preparing for snap elections. The latest Pulse poll for Action 24 TV showed Syriza leading with 28.5% followed by New Democracy with 25%. Macropolis looked at recent polls and finds that they all show three clear trends: A slight majority in favour of avoiding snap elections, a closing of the gap between Syriza and New Democracy and a prevalent mistrust of both the government and the opposition. We find the last trend the most interesting aspect, as the poll results suggest that fear and anger seem to be a strong determinant of people's motives to vote: a poll from Macedonia University showed that among Syriza supporters, only 18.3% "truly trust" Syriza to govern, while over 80% vote for them because they have had enough of the current government. Among New Democracy supporters, 53.7% "truly trust" the party, while 42.9% support Samaras' party because they fear Syriza. If no presidential candidate is elected this month, the government is likely to further polarise public opinion.

Macropolis predicts that Syriza is still set to win if there are snap elections but its majority would fall well short of the 36%-38% for an outright majority. Syriza might also fail to get a coalition government up and running, given that it did not cultivate alliances over the last months, and given the looming deadline for the extended bailout. If New Democracy improves further by closing the gap in the opinion polls, it will be in a strong position for a possible second round of elections, as it did in the summer of 2012.

Remy Davison writes on the LSE blog that from an investor's perspective, the Greek crisis today is not comparable with 2012, neither politically nor economically. Then, Syriza campaigned as an uncompromising radical party, today many of its positions have softened. Syriza no longer questions euro membership and made it clear that it will not ask the private sector for another haircut.

Our other stories

We also have stories on how long can Russia last before it goes bust; on Spain’s economic perspectives; on Podemos in Barcelona; on whether the Bundesbank is winning the battle over QE after all; on net inflows of European money market funds; on the rise of German real wages, and on the battle to succeed Giorgio Napolitano.

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