As Greece braces for parliamentary elections on September 20, ruling Radical Left party Syriza finds itself slipping in the polls and possibly handing the nation back to the center-right, chasing an ever-elusive youth vote.
The latest polls, Greek newspaper Ta Nea reports, put the center-right New Democracy party ahead of Syriza by the tiniest of margins: 0.5 percent. The Pulse for Action 24 TV poll is the first to find Syriza losing their lead to New Democracy, as a poll, released the Tuesday before, found Syriza benefitting from the 0.5 percent lead. The poll also finds the battle for third place between the socialist party PASOK and the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn to be extremely close, both at 6.5 percent.
New Democracy ran the country for a short time before the Syriza sweep occurred earlier this year, with Greeks desperate to elect a strong, anti-austerity leader. Syriza chief and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed to oppose all austerity measures, but instead agreed to pass through the legislature one of the strictest austerity packages yet.
The tight polling led New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis to suggest that he would be open to a coalition government with Syriza. “If New Democracy wins the elections, I will first meet with [SYRIZA leader] Alexis Tsipras to try to form a government,” he said. This is a change from days ago, when Meimarakis said he would be open to working with Syriza, but not Tsipras himself. Tsipras immediately refused this alliance, calling it “unnatural” for the two parties to negotiate because they share too many policy differences.
Tsipras’s party has been hemorrhaging votes—and party members—since his resignation in August. Then, Tsipras said in a nationally televised speech that he believed it was necessary for the country to have another election because he had been elected on an anti-austerity platform and, now that he supported an EU-approved austerity package, the voters should have a chance to approve or disapprove of his new policies.
Young voters, among the most devastated by Greece’s struggling economy, widely disapprove. “Alexis betrayed us,” Spiros, a 25-year-old student, tells Agence France-Presse. The sentiment, the news agency notes, is echoed by many unemployed and overeducated, indebted youths. “Syriza has done everything it said it wouldn’t,” said another, Alex, who refused to vote for the party again. On social media, young leftists express similar sentiments, lamenting that Syriza had reneged on its promise to “fight capitalism.”
AFP notes that only 18.6 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds said they were going to vote for Syriza in the upcoming election, down from 30 percent during the last round of voting. Where those votes will go once they leave Syriza is unclear, as the other major leftist party, PASOK, is still struggling in third place in the polls.
International leftists appear to sense Syriza’s panic, as the increasingly unpopular Pablo Iglesias of Spain’s extreme left Podemos party plans on visiting Athens this week to bolster ally Tsipras. Iglesias, a professor with his own TV show on Iranian state media, is struggling to maintain his relevance by using other leftist European leaders, like Tsipras and the UK Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn, as popularity crutches.