Athens Digest 24.05.2019

• Three days before elections, polls give conservatives clear advantage

• EU court says bond owners won’t get haircut compensation

• Supreme Court says terror group gunman’s furlough request will be reconsidered

# Three days before European and local government elections in Greece, New Democracy has held on to its consistent lead in opinion polls. A Pulse survey for Skai TV last night gave the conservatives a 7-point lead with 31 percent and Syriza at 24 percent (undecided at 7.5 percent). The polls, all favouring ND, have set the advantage at between 3.4 and 8.5 percent (Kappa and Rass), most placing the gap between 6.3 and 7.2 points. The conservatives are also leading in major races for regional governors and mayors. Some analysts say the government could call a snap election if the gap with New Democracy is either much lower or much higher than expected. Nevertheless, PM Tsipras repeated yesterday that he doesn’t intent to go for snap elections. Ruling Syriza has mostly campaigned on the recent benefit package. New Democracy has campaigned on public security, employment and the need for tax cuts and a stronger recovery.

# A top EU court has rejected a compensation claim against the European Central Bank by Greek bond owners over the country’s massive debt restructuring in 2012.“General Court notes that the restructuring of the Greek public debt did not giverise to any infringement of the principle of compliance with contractual obligations since investment in state bonds always carries the risk of financial loss,” the ruling said. The investors argued that the ECB should have opposed the writedown worth EUR 105 billion, but the court found that it had acted lawfully.

# Supreme Court ordered a panel of lower judges to re-examine a request to grant terror group gunman Dimitris Koufodinas prison leave. Earlier decisions to approving furloughs were met with strong protests from families of the victims of the armed far-left group November 17, as well as the governments of Britain and the United States.  Koufodinas, 61, is serving life for 11 murders. After yesterday’s decision, he ended a three-week hunger strike. Anarchist groups staged numerous protests in support of him in recent weeks, including paint attacks at the home of the U.S. ambassador and the side entrance of Greece’s parliament.

On our Radar: If I was Juncker…
Hypothetically asked by Italy’s far-left Manifesto, what he would do if he replaced EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, MinFin Euclid Tsakalotos said: “First of all, I would have to examine the social impact of every decision.” He added that he supported abolishing the EU Treaty’s so-called no-bailout clause, arguing that member states should be allowed to aid others in financial distress.
“That should have happened with Greece, but the opposite was done,” he said. “Now there is Italy, trapped in the worst crisis since the war.”
Tsakalotos praised the performance of the Greek economy and his government policies, ahead of Sunday’s elections. Nevertheless, a new round of talks are about to start in early June. The Greek MinFin will have to prove that recent handouts don’t create a new yearly fiscal gap while the European institutions are expected to report that the recent handouts would cause a yearly fiscal gap of around EUR 1.4 billion in 2019.