Poll: Greek pro-bailout parties recover as vote nears

ATHENS Sat Apr 7, 2012 4:39pm EDT

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ATHENS (Reuters) - The two main parties backing Greece's EU/IMF bailout are recovering some popularity as a general election nears, an opinion poll showed on Saturday.

Support for the conservative New Democracy and the Socialist PASOK now reaches a combined 40 percent from 26 percent in February, according to an Alco survey for the Proto Thema newspaper.

Other polls showed the parties' support had sunk over the past few weeks because of unpopular austerity measures, casting doubt on whether their coalition could survive an election.

But Saturday's poll found that backing for New Democracy had risen by nearly 6 percentage points over the past two months to 24 percent. PASOK's ratings - boosted by the election of former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos as its new leader - now stand at 16 percent, or twice as much as the February reading, according to the poll.

Support for the two big parties traditionally rises as elections near, and the parties also benefit from their strong support of Greece's membership of the euro, backed by a majority of voters.

The election is expected on May 6.

Greece's next government must announce in June a new 14 billion euro ($18.29 billion) austerity plan if it wants to keep receiving the aid it needs to avoid bankruptcy. The other parties likely to enter parliament reject the steep spending cuts.

"Greece will make it. Greece will exit the crisis," conservative leader Antonis Samaras told supporters on Saturday, pledging to boost low pensions, create jobs and compensate retail bondholders who have lost money due to the country's major debt restructuring plan.

New Democracy and PASOK have not said whether they would renew their coalition, which began in November to push a new EU/IMF bailout through parliament. But such an option looks likely as opinion polls so far have shown neither would have enough votes to govern alone.

However, Samaras said on Saturday that he still aimed for an absolute majority.

In total, 9 parties - ranging from the communist KKE to the extreme-right Golden Dawn - would cross the 3 percent threshold to enter parliament, the poll showed. Most are against the bailout.

The poll was conducted nationwide on April 3-5.

($1 = 0.7655 euros)

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)

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