Sunday, January 18, 2015

Greece’s Syriza Leads in Polls as General Election Looms

Leftist Opposition Party Widens Lead, According to Survey in Newspaper To Vima

A man sits inside an election kiosk of Greece’s opposition Syriza party in Athens on Saturday. ENLAR
ATHENS—Greece’s leftist Syriza party is holding its lead in opinion polls a week ahead of a key general election, amid signs that political uncertainty is taking a growing toll on the economy.
A survey published Sunday in newspaper To Vima shows antiausterity party Syriza’s lead over the ruling New Democracy widening slightly to 3.1 percentage points from 2.5 percentage points a week earlier—the first time it has widened its lead since November.
In a separate poll published in newspaper Avgi, Syriza’s lead narrowed to five percentage points from eight a week earlier.
Greece’s coalition government—comprising New Democracy and its junior partner, the socialist Pasok party—was forced to conduct snap elections on Jan. 25 after Parliament failed in late December to agree on a new head of state.
Under Greece’s electoral rules, the winning party is automatically awarded 50 bonus seats in the 300-seat legislature, a measure aimed at facilitating the stability of an elected government. But most surveys indicate that Syriza wouldn’t be able to secure enough votes—even with the bonus—to get an absolute majority in Parliament, forcing it to seek coalition partners.
Since political uncertainty has gripped Greece in the past few months, discussion about a possible exit from the eurozone has been revived given Syriza’s opposition to the austerity policies pushed by Greece’s international creditors.
Banks have also started to feel the squeeze amid concerns that liquidity conditions are tightening. In the past two months, some €3 billion ($3.47 billion) in deposits have left the banking system.
On Friday, two of Greece’s biggest lenders, Eurobank Ergasias and Alpha Bank, said they had formally requested access to an emergency cash facility run by the country’s central bank.
The moves are seen as precautionary, bank officials say, with neither lender facing an immediate cash crunch, seeking a few billion euros between them, according to people familiar with the matter. That would still come at a cost though: The Bank of Greece charges a 1.55% interest rate for its cash, compared with 0.05% at the European Central Bank.
The upcoming elections have also put on hold negotiations between Greece and representatives of its international creditors—the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, also known as the troika—about a credit line to follow its €240 billion bailout.
Late Friday, it emerged that some of Greece’s international creditors are worried that the credit line might not be enough to secure the country’s finances this year and that Athens might instead need new loans from the currency union’s bailout fund.
Ratings firm Fitch expects the two sides to ultimately reach a new financing arrangement, but on Friday revised its outlook on Greece to negative, citing uncertainty over Greece’s future policies.
“An agreement between a new Greek government and the troika remains likely as there are strong incentives on both sides for a deal. This holds in the event of a Syriza victory in the election,” Fitch said in a statement Friday.
“Nevertheless, there is a wide gap between the policy proposals of both sides, such that negotiations would be complicated and subject to risks.”
—Alkman Granitsas contributed to this article.
Write to Stelios Bouras at

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