Greek pro-bailout party leads leftists in surveys
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's pro-bailout New Democracy party had a lead of more than two points over the SYRIZA leftists in surveys published on Friday ahead of a June 17 national election that may decide the debt-laden country's future in the euro currency club.
The result of the election - which could have far-reaching ramifications for the future of the 17-nation euro zone - remains finely balanced, as different polls in recent days have produced contradictory results.
The surveys by pollsters Rass and Kapa, among the last before a ban on the publication of polls goes into force on Saturday, put the conservative New Democracy party (ND) ahead of the anti-bailout SYRIZA leftists by respectively 2.3 and 2.5 percentage points.
SYRIZA says it wants Greece to stay in the euro but ditch the 130-billion-euro international rescue package and the tough austerity policies prescribed by the European Union and other lenders to help dig Athens out of its debt hole.
On Thursday, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said a return to the drachma was not an option, reiterating his stance that Greece must cancel the bailout and renegotiate a new plan to help its battered economy recover.
"There is no danger of us leaving the euro zone. We need to cancel the bailout which has led to catastrophe," Tsipras said in an interview with the enikos.gr website. "We will replace it with a national plan to resurrect the economy."
Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, had earlier told supporters that any move to reject the rescue package would plunge Greece into a nightmare that it could not control.
"Those who talk of denouncing the bailout are like little children playing with matches in a gunpowder warehouse, and they are driving us towards an isolated Greece.
Three polls released on Wednesday put the two parties neck-and-neck or very close, one putting SYRIZA in the lead. Greece's electoral system gives the winning party an extra 50 seats in parliament to make it easier to form a government.
Greece has been hit hard by more than four years of recession as well as surging unemployment and dwindling cash reserves. Fatigued by an austerity program that has brought cuts in pay and pensions and higher taxes, its electorate does not see light at the end of the tunnel.
EU leaders have warned Greece of the consequences of renouncing the bailout conditions and threatened to pull the plug on new funding - a move that may lead to rapid bankruptcy for Greece and an ignominious exit from the single currency.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Harry Papachristou; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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