By George Gilson
An exit poll from today’s European Parliament elections in Greece gives main opposition New Democracy a seven percentage point lead over ruling SYRIZA.
The exit poll was conducted by a consortium of Greek polling companies comprised of Alco, Marc, Metron Analysis and MRB. It was released at 7pm Greek time, two hours before the polls closed.
The poll gives ND precisely a seven percentage point lead over SYRIZA when one compares both the two leading parties’ maximum percentages and their minimum percentages.
When one compares SYRIZA’s maximum percentage with New Democray’s the minimum spread is three percentage points.
If one compares the projection for New Democracy’s maximum percentage with SYRIZA’s minimum projected percentage ND garners an eleven percentage point lead.
The exit poll results, if confirmed, would be a clear-cut strategic victory for the conservative party, as both Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis had framed the election as a vote of confidence in the government.
It also signals the end of Tsipras' undisputed political hegemony on the domestic political stage.
The looming question now is whether the PM will call a general election immediately or wait until October when his term ends in an effort to turn the tide.
SYRIZA's most prominent MEP and European Parliament VP, Dimitris Papadimoulis, suggested in a televised statement shortly before 9pm that the government will serve out its terms, though that remains uncertain.
Greece's creditors and partners have already begun expressing consternation over the economic stimulus package announce by Tsipras on 8 May, which they fear would derail the economy and fiscal targets with its benefits and tax cuts.
These are the first nationwide elections in Greece since September, 2015, when SYRIZA won its second general election in one year.
That was one month after Parliament passed the third bailout memorandum with the support of New Democracy as a large number of SYRIZA MPs had defected from the party due to Tsipras’ decision to sign the bailout deal in violation of the result of a consultative referendum in which 61.31 percent of voters rejected the deal offered Greece by creditors.
The exit poll gives centre-left Movement for Change third place, ahead of the extreme right Golden Dawn whose leaders have in the past associated themselves with the Nazis.
The spectre of a prospective third place finish for Golden Dawn has for some time haunted the political system, though its support has suffered a major blow from the fact that the party has for the last four years been on trial on charges of being a criminal organisation which has committed several murders of migrants and a Greek anti-facsist rapper.
The exit poll also points to the newfangled right-wing populist and Russophile Elliniki Lysi (Greek Solution party) gaining a seat in the European Parliament.
The party’s leader, Kyriakos Velopoulos, is a former MP of the right-wing populist LAOS party (Popular Orthodox Rally).
Velopoulos has a daily programme on a small television channel on which he presents geopolitical opinions in which he sings the praises of Vladimir Putin and sells various herbs and natural health products that he says are produced by monasteries.
With 80 percent of the exit poll’s result counted, New Democracy garners between 32 and 36 percent of the vote, SYRIZA between 25-29 percent, Movement for Change 7-9 percent, Golden Dawn 5-7 percent, the Greek Communiust Patrty (KKE) 5-7 percent, Potami (River) 1-2 percent, Elliniki Lysi 2.5-4.5 percent, former finance minister MeRa25 (Diem 25) 2.5-4.5 percent, the Independent Greeks ()the erstwhile coalition partner of SYRIZA 1-2 percent, and the Centrists’ Union parliamentary party 1-2 percent.