Almost half of Greek voters oppose austerity deal: poll

ATHENS Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:44pm EDT

Protesters shout slogans in front of parliament during a rally against austerity economic measures and corruption in Athens' Syntagma (Constitution) square June 17, 2011. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

Protesters shout slogans in front of parliament during a rally against austerity economic measures and corruption in Athens' Syntagma (Constitution) square June 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/John Kolesidis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Almost half of Greek voters want parliament to reject a package of harsh economic reforms that the government has agreed in return for a second international bailout to avoid default, according to an opinion poll.

The poll, in Sunday's edition of To Vima newspaper, showed they also wanted Greece to hold early elections to replace the embattled government of Prime Minister George Papandreou.

The survey was taken before Papandreou reshuffled his government on Friday in an attempt to stiffen resolve to hammer through the reforms.

The European Union and International Monetary Fund have made the reforms a condition for a new emergency loan package worth an estimated 120 billion euros ($170 billion) that Greece will need to avoid bankruptcy and fund itself through 2014.

In a nationwide survey of 1,208 voters, 47.5 percent of respondents said they wanted parliament to reject the reform package and for Greece to hold early elections.

Just over a third -- 34.8 percent -- wanted it to be approved so Athens could receive a new loan tranche and secure the second bailout.

Constantinos Routzounis, head of pollsters Kapa Research, said Greeks were not against austerity in itself but thought the reforms were unfairly aimed at the poor while wealthy tax evaders and corrupt politicians got off lightly.

"People don't want Greece to exit the euro zone. They do want fiscal consolidation measures -- but more just ones," he told Reuters.

Kapa conducted the survey on June 14-15.

Papandreou announced a wholesale reshuffle on Friday in a move to quell open dissent in his ruling Socialist Party and push the measures through parliament in the face of weeks of protests that briefly erupted in violence last Wednesday.

Just under 90 percent of those polled said they were not optimistic about the direction in which Greece was heading, but 80 percent favored being in the euro zone.

Euro zone finance ministers are expected to agree on Sunday to release a 12 billion euro tranche of an existing, year-old bailout loan that Greece needs to pay back debt maturing in July and August.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Writing by Hugh Lawson; editing by Barry Moody)

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