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Greeks not losing hope in Tsipras, but many are afraid

Tsipras' SYRIZA coalition has risen in the polls since its election in January, but many Greeks are afraid for the future

21.04.2015
Greeks not losing hope in Tsipras, but many are afraid

By Magda Panoutsopoulou

ATHENS

A majority of Greek voters feel that Tsipras' handling of the financial crisis inspires "national pride," but a sizeable majority is afraid for the future.

Greece’s new leftist-led anti-austerity government is about to complete their third month in office on April 25, just as negotiations with the country's European creditors are reaching a crisis.  

The country is set to run out funds to run banks and public services in mid-May, according to credit rating agency Standard & Poor's, and the government has requisitioned cash from state companies and pension funds. Banks are running only thanks to emergency loans from the European Central Bank.  

Alexis Tsipras had promised in his election campaign to set Greece free from all the bailout debt burdens and much-hated austerity measures imposed by agreements with creditors. But the new Greek government has failed to renegotiate the terms of the bailout imposed by the creditors in 2010.

This would lead one to expect that supporters would be somewhat disappointed in the government's performance, but just the opposite is true. A poll conducted Public Issue for the Greek daily newspaper Avgi at the beginning of April showed that 82 percent of Greek voters felt that the government's debt negotiations had "restored national pride."

"The Tsipras government has managed to raise its stature where others failed," said Greek voter Mina Geldi, who is 40 years old and unemployed. "The Goebbelist type of propaganda of the opposition and the terror that has been spread to the people will not be tolerated. We have woken up, and, by all means and at all costs, we want to stop the German invasion and Greece from becoming a protectorate of a powerful nation."

Kirsty Kinloch who has been living in Greece for the past 20 years, commented: the Tsipras government "shows that it has the capacity not to back off, they will succeed on accomplishing a good deal, and in a short time it will be obvious and Greece will come back."

How has the government achieved this favor in popular opinion? 

"Mr Tsipras and SYRIZA have been riding high in opinion polls -- his approval rating stands at close to 70 per cent in some surveys -- partly because no government measures have hit Greeks in their pockets yet," explained Yiannis Mantzikos, a researcher and a political analyst.

"However, recent gold miners rally showed that Greeks, if they feel mistreated or misgoverned, will turn against the political upstarts of Syriza just as they turned against the traditional parties of left and right whose misrule pushed Greece to the abyss," Mantzikos said. 

Tsipras faces a quandary, according to Mantzikos, if he wants to dominate the political game for the years to come. "This means though that he has to move to the center-left and leave his radical left entourage. But Tsipras wants to do everything possible to avoid a rupture with radical left which makes up about one-third of the parliamentary party," Mantzikos pointed out.

Key to Tsipras' success will be achieving the negotiations with Greece's European creditors, Mantzikos said. But time is running out, and Tsipras' popular mandate is at stake, he added.

For now, a large part of popular opinion is afraid for the future. An opinion poll by MRB on behalf of  the private television channel Star, conducted in March, showed that 49.1 percent of Greek voters have serious concerns about the country's future, and another 24.4 percent said that they were afraid.

There is also a side of the Greek population that believes that the leftist government is playing political games and is following the same line as previous governments.

Antonis Antoniou, 48 years old and self-employed, told AA that "Syriza had promised to kick out the troika, but they have just given it a new name, and have renamed the bailout. This does not make much difference, and that’s not what they had promised."

An ex-banker, 34-year old Yannis-Plytas Kaklamanos, believes that this government is playing political games as if they were still an opposition party. "This government hasn't realized that they took over a country that has a huge debt," he complained.

"Despite the cuts and the austerity measures imposed on us by the previous coalition government of New Democracy and Pasok, and the many mistakes they made, they had a vision and they had goals. In five years' time, things would have been better I think."

Despite these differences in support of the government, there does seem to be one area of substantial agreement among Greek voters: About 80 percent do not want to leave the euro, according to polls conducted in April.

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