While the French elections have dominated headlines in recent weeks, the contest you really should be watching on May 6 will take place in Greece.
Not only is the race for control of Greece’s government much tighter, it will serve as a sort of popular referendum on support for the austerity policies that Greece has had to adopt to remain a member of the eurozone.
PASOK and New Democracy—the two parties which formed the basis of the transitional government under technocrat Lucas Papademos—are expected to lead the new coalition. To do so, they need to garner a combined 151 seats in the 300 member parliament, or at least 39 to 40 per cent of the vote. They are led by Evangelos Venizelos and Antonis Samaras, respectively, both veteran party officials.
Other parties will need at least three per cent of the vote in order to win any seats at all. Popular support for such parties, many of which are more vehement opponents of austerity, has been mounting in recent months.
Before the poll blackout on April 20, New Democracy had the support of 22.3 per cent of voters. At that time, PASOK was trailing with 17.8 per cent of the vote. A CNBC graphic shows the breakdown of popular support, with conservatives and nationalists on the right and left-leaning parties on the left:
Worst case scenario here is that PASOK and New Democracy don’t win a full 151 seats. While this is not an expected outcome, based on the latest polling data this will still be a close call.
The most realistic concern is that New Democracy will spurn the partnership of rival PASOK, likely the party most amenable to EU demands. At the same time, a more complex coalition of radical elements would be difficult to organise and even more difficult to work with.
Photo: AP/Petros Giannakouris
Thus the problem becomes future political risk: New Democracy could easily demand another election to foment their support in short order.
“I don’t expect a coalition to serve a full term,” a PASOK politician told the WSJ. “Samaras wants to govern alone, so we believe he will gamble on another election.” New Democracy MPs appear to second this idea: “If Samaras doesn’t get a clear win this time around, he is convinced he can do it in another election,” said an ND official cited by that report.
Analysts with the Eurasia Group wrote in a note today, “Against this unsupportive backdrop, the new government will face a key test in June when it must agree on a new round of cuts worth at least EUR 11.5bn for 2013-14.”
A majority of Greeks are still in favour of the euro, however that support has been waning as the Greek economy deteriorates. 22 per cent of Greeks are unemployed in the country’s fifth year of economic contraction.
The elections on Sunday will provide insight on the state of popular approval of the euro at the expense of austerity. According to Singular Logic (the company conducting polling) the first polling results will be published around 2:00-2:30 PM ET.
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