May 19, 2012 / 7:16 PM / 7 years ago

CORRECTED-Greek election race tightens into dead heat

* Vote could decide whether Greece stays in euro
    * Most Greeks want to keep euro but oppose austerity
    * Polls split between pro and anti bailout parties

    By Renee Maltezou and Peter Graff	
    ATHENS, May 19 (Reuters) - A flurry of polls on Saturday
showed the race to lead Greece has tightened into a dead heat
ahead of an election next month that could determine whether it
remains in the euro.	
    Greece was forced to call the new vote for June 17 after an
election on May 6 left parliament divided evenly between groups
of parties that support and oppose austerity conditions attached
to a 130 billion euro rescue agreed with lenders in March.	
    The failure of the two parties that dominated Greece for
decades to win a pro-bailout majority, and the success of the
anti-bailout radical leftist SYRIZA party which came second,
have sent shock waves through Europe.	
    The overwhelming majority of Greeks want to keep the euro,
but oppose the austerity conditions agreed with the EU and
International Monetary Fund. If Greece renounces the bailout, EU
leaders say they will pull the plug on funding, leading to rapid
bankruptcy and an exit from the single currency.	
    Leaders of Group of Eight nations on Saturday backed keeping
Greece in the euro but signalled it should keep to its bailout
terms. "We reaffirm our interest in Greece remaining in the euro
zone while respecting its commitments," they said in a
communique after a summit at Camp David. 	
    Of four polls published on Saturday, two put SYRIZA ahead
and two put the conservative New Democracy party ahead. Three of
the four polls showed gaps of less than 1.7 percent of voters
separating the two parties.	
    Greece's election rules give the party that comes first an
automatic bonus of 50 seats in the 300 seat house, meaning even
the slightest edge could play a decisive role in determining who
forms the next government.	
    Polls since the May 6 election have shown SYRIZA and the two
pro-bailout parties all improving their performance at the
expense of smaller parties. That means whoever wins this time
should be in a stronger position than last time.	
    SYRIZA's charismatic 37-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras has
emerged in the election campaign as a star, catapulting him to
the forefront of the anti-bailout campaign. He appeals in
particular to the youth in a country where more than half of
young people are jobless after five straight years of recession.	
    He says European leaders are bluffing when they warn Athens
could be forced out of the single currency, and Greece can
demand far more lenient terms because EU states will be
desperate to avoid the cost of breaking up the euro bloc. 	
    "He is a young politician and I believe he is telling the
truth," said Nicos Arvanitis, 38, selling pistachios in an
Athens shop. "He can get us out of the crisis. I'm not afraid
they'll kick us out of the euro. It's political blackmail."	
    New Democracy and the Socialists will be trying to scare
voters who deserted the traditional parties into returning to
fend off catastrophe, arguing that electing Tsipras would
meannthe end of Greece's membership of the euro zone.	
    Greeks have been withdrawing hundreds of millions of euros a
day from their banks, a trend which can continue only as long as
the European Central Bank is willing to provide Greek banks
funding through the Bank of Greece.	
    A Sunday newspaper, Proto Thema, reported that senior
bankers had met at the Bank of Greece last week to discuss
measures, including possible limits on withdrawals. A Bank of
Greece spokesman denied any such meeting had taken place.	
    "The Bank of Greece dismisses categorically an article in a
Sunday newspaper which refers to an alleged plan to limit
withdrawals and capital movements abroad," the bank said in a
    Banking experts say imposing limits on withdrawals could be
self-defeating, because it might cause a panic.	
    One of the elements of the bailout is a recapitalisation
plan to ensure the banks are still solvent and have enough
capital to keep borrowing from the ECB. The Frankfurt-based euro
zone central bank said last week it had halted direct funding to
some Greek lenders because their capital had fallen too low.	
    New Democracy's Antonis Samaras, who largely ignored Tsipras
in the last campaign, has invited him to a televised debate. A
spokesman for SYRIZA said the party was open to the idea.	
    Greeks have bristled at what they see as bossy behaviour by
European leaders. Newspapers were filled with outrage at news
that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had phoned Greek President
Karolos Papoulias on Friday and discussed the idea of Greece
holding a referendum on its euro zone membership.	
    Tsipras accused the German chancellor of talking to Greek
leaders as if Greece were a German "protectorate". Samaras
called the idea "unfortunate to say the least" and said Greeks,
who overwhelmingly support the euro, do not need a referendum to
demonstrate that.	
    Berlin denied Merkel had pushed any such proposal on
Papoulias. Interim Greek Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos
said he considered the matter closed.	
    Following is a table of recent Greek poll results	
 Agency    Date**  ND     SYRIZA  PASOK   I.G.   KKE    D.L.  G.D.
 P. Issue  May 19  24     28      15      8      5      7     4.5
 *Alco     May 19  23.1   21.4    13.5    7.3    5.2    6.0   3.8
 *MRB      May 19  24.4   23.8    14.5    8.5    5.9    6.9   5.8
 *Metron   May 19  23.8   25.1    17.4    7.8    5.8    6.3   4.8
 *MARC     May 17  26.1   23.7    14.9    8.1    5.8    6.3   4.8
 *Pulse    May 17  21.5   24.5    15.5    8.0    6.0    6.0   6.0
 VPRC      May 16  14.5   20.3    10.9    3.7    4.4    6.1   2.2
 Kapa      May 13  18.1   20.5    12.2    8.4    6.5    5.0   5.8
 *Metron   May 12  21.7   25.5    14.6    10.5   5.3    5.4   4.7
 Marc      May 10  20.3   27.7    12.6    10.2   7.0    4.9   5.7
 Election  May 6   18.9   16.8    13.2    10.6   8.5    6.1   7.0
* Poll result effectively excludes undecided voters and 	
those who refused to say how they will vote to project how the 	
poll data would translate into an actual vote result.           
 ** Date of publication  	
ND: New Democracy (Conservative, pro-bailout)  	
    SYRIZA: Left Coalition (Leftist, anti-bailout)  	
    PASOK: Panhellenic Socialist Movement (socialist, 	
    I.G.: Independent Greeks (conservative, anti-bailout)  	
    KKE: Communists (anti-bailout)  	
    D.L.: Democratic Left (moderate left, anti-austerity)  	
    G.D.: Golden Dawn (far-right, anti-bailout)
0 : 0
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