Global Politics

Greek polls show falling support for Syriza and Tsipras


Greek former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks during a meeting with members of his Syriza party in Athens, August 29, 2015. The text reads "Only forward".


Stoyan Nenov/ Reuters

With 20 days to the election, the only sure thing in Greece is more uncertainty.

New opinion polls out of Greece show waning support for the leftist political party Syriza and its popular leader, former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Syriza, and especially Tsipras, enjoyed high popularity ratings for much of the past eight months. A week before January's elections, the party was leading the polls with 32 percent approval, leading all other parties by 6 percent. In March, Tsipras had a comfortable 70 percent approval rating. By July, despite economic troubles and agreeing to memorandums he had previously reviled, Tsipras was still comfortably ahead in the polls.

"I think generally people do like Tsipras, he’s probably been one of the most popular politicians for some time," said Theopi Skarlatos, a journalist who has created a documentary following Tsipras and Syriza's rise over the past year, "I tend to find him pretty genuine. A shipowner said to me they like Tsipras, and they believe he’s not there as a corrupt politician, and he’s not there for the money, and he does actually want to make real change. And I think that’s why he tends to be popular,"

Tsipras resigned in July with these high approval rates. But new opinion polls show Syriza leading with only a slim margin of one to three percent. Tsipras's approval rating has dropped more than 40 points to 29.5 percent.

In January, Tsipras's slogan was "hope begins today." Greek people seemed to show a level of hope they had not in years. "I don’t think I will ever live through another moment like that in Greece, because, in the election in January, the amount of hope that was in the country at the time I personally found to be unbelievable," said Skarlatos. "And it was born from a place that was absolutely lacking in hope."

"When Syriza won in January it wasn’t because it was a radical left party and the people who voted for them were supporters of the radical far left. That’s just not really what it was," explained Skarlatos. "They really were a breath of fresh air in a country where politics has been dominated by two or three main parties that people don’t really trust anymore, or don’t necessarily understand anymore what they stand for or what they’re trying to achieve."

But the tone is very different this time around. The party has fractured, losing many of its members, and has agreed to the austerity programs it ran against. A splinter party that has maintained its anti-austerity platform is polling between three and five percent.

Skarlatos has followed several Greeks who have become disenchanted, even those who previously supported Syriza. She predicts significantly less rhetoric about hope: "I think perhaps people will be more realistic this time around. Not necessarily think that big huge massive changes can be gained. Because it’s not really a revolution in that sense."

Skarlatos predicts many Greeks will not even vote out of frustration over what the parties stand for at this point. About 25 percent of Greeks say they're undecided.

At this point it looks at if Syriza will be elected to lead a coalition government, but Tsipras has said he will not be prime minister if he has to form a coalition with the two historically dominant political parties, New Democracy and Pasok. It is unclear is Tsipras will stick to this promise, and what the future holds for Greece.

"Although I’ve spoken with Tsipras a number of times and he’s said ‘I always knew it was going to be this hard,’" said Skarlatos, "But a part of me sometimes wonders whether they really did know how hard it was going to be."

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