Party system coming under increasing pressure, as social protest moves toward abstention

Findings of Public Issue’s July Barometer

Analysis by


The significant social and political developments that are currently in full swing are clearly reflected in Public Issue’s July Barometer. The negative performance of the ruling party and the prime minister has heightened uncertainty about political developments, but also about the endurance of the present government. It is not only the fact that ruling PASOK’s electoral support has fallen (estimated at 43%, -2%) – for the first time since elections last October – below its share of the vote (43.9%). More importantly, the party’s electoral/social base may have dwindled considerably, e.g. to below 2,300,000 voters (Public Issue estimate). If one considers that PASOK won the last elections (10/2009) with 3,012,000 votes (New Democracy won in 2007, with roughly the same number – 2,995,000), this means that over 700,000 of PASOK’s voters are moving away from the party.

Similar losses (25%, -2%), however, have been incurred by ND, whose popular support has declined constantly since January. Consequently, support for both government parties continues to fall markedly. Electoral support for the two main parties declined significantly – by 4 percentage points – in just one month (68%, against 72% in June), while compared to January, the losses total 12%. Their aggregate losses, in terms of voters, at the present time, i.e. nine months after national elections, are estimated to exceed 1.5 million.

Such low percentages of electoral support for the two parties had only been recorded in March 2008 (68.5%), due to PASOK’s post-election collapse. This crisis deepened in the summer of the same year (65.5% in July), but ended in autumn with the weakening of SYRIZA, the sudden recovery of PASOK and the sharp decline of ND. The predominance of the two main parties did not end in 2008. On the contrary, the system functioned yet again, resulting in the spectacular ‘change of guard’ last October. However, compared to the crisis in 2008, the current one is clearly deeper, since both ‘pillars’ of the party system are in decline, negatively impacted by the general climate of disapproval. Can this sentiment of condemnation be absorbed once again? Clearly, this will require a regrouping on the part of the main opposition party. And while ND’s current electoral support is estimated at 25%, the corres-ponding level for PASOK in the period March-September 2008 never fell below 30.5%.

At this point, it should be noted that the level of social protest generated in the present period is leading to abstention. The main choice among dissatis-fied citizens continues to be ‘withdrawal’ from the electorate. The propensity to abstain stabilized for the third straight month at extremely high levels that are unprecedented for Greece. The relevant abstention index has risen to 35.5%, which corresponds to almost 3,000,000 voters. If this indication indeed mirrors the intentions of the electorate, then it means that the in-tention to abstain now being recorded is of similar significance to that re-vealed by European elections in June 2009.


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*Political scientist, PhD, President & CEO of Public Issue

Date of publication: 11/07/2010
Publication: Newspaper “KATHIMERINI”