Greek opposition widens lead over ruling party-polls

Greek citizens were split on whether the government should call snap elections.

Greek opposition widens lead over ruling party-polls

Greece's opposition Socialist party has stretched its poll lead to as much as 6 percentage points over the ruling Conservatives amid public discontent over the handling of the worst rioting in decades, surveys showed on Sunday.

Anti-government protests have entered a third week since the Dec. 6 killing of a 15-year-old boy by police but Greek citizens were split on whether the government should call snap elections. The demonstrations have fed on anger at youth unemployment, pension reforms and privatisations, and an economic slowdown.

While the level of violence has fallen in the past few days, hundreds of students with fire bombs fought running battles with police in the centre of Athens late on Saturday and daily demonstrations clog the square outside parliament.

An opinion poll published by Kathimerini newspaper showed the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) had 38.5 percent of voters support compared to 32.5 percent for the ruling New Democracy party.

The survey of 1,013 people by pollsters Public Issue, spanning the start of the riots, showed 86 percent of Greeks were critical of the government's handling of the violence and believed "things in Greece are moving in the wrong direction".

"The government's handling of youth protests resulted in a further worsening of the government and prime minister's image," Yiannis Mavris, Public Issue general director, said in an article in the newspaper.

But only half of the sample said the ruling party should call snap vote, after it won reelection last year.

The Greek government's term ends in September 2011 but many analysts say the ruling party might have to call elections as soon as next year. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has rejected PASOK calls to go to the polls.

Sympathy protests

The violence in Greece has sparked sympathy protests across Europe. In the northern German port city of Hamburg, scattered violence erupted at a demonstration by about 1,000 people late on Saturday in support of the Greek protests. Four police officers were slightly injured and 10 people arrested.

The Greek government's majority fell to one seat in the 300-member parliament after the expulsion of a rebel MP last month and its popularity has been hit by 15 days of protests which have caused hundreds of millions of euros in damage and lost business.

PASOK moved ahead in polls in September amid a series of political scandals and a slowing economy, part of the global financial crisis, hurt the government's image.

A second poll published on Sunday by To Vima newspaper showed the socialists with a 4.5 percentage point lead.

The Kappa Research survey, conducted between Dec. 17 and 18, also showed 49.2 percent of people believed current unrest would not subside soon but Greeks were again divided over whether the government should complete its term or call early elections.

Later on Sunday, the parliament is expected to approve a 2009 budget which targets 2.7 percent growth next year, although the government has already admitted the target was "difficult" and may need revision.


Reuters

Last Mod: 21 Aralık 2008, 16:10
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