ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s pro-bailout conservatives are leading ahead of a national parliamentary election next month that may determine whether the country remains in the euro zone, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday.
Greece was forced to call the June 17 vote after an election on May 6 left parliament divided between parties that support and oppose austerity measures tied to a 130-billion-euro bailout agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund in March.
Neither the pro-bailout nor anti-bailout parties succeeded in forming a government despite tortuous efforts to do so.
With just under three weeks to go before a re-run of that election, the poll, by GPO for Mega TV, suggested that the pro-bailout parties - New Democracy and PASOK - have regained a slim lead and may have a chance of forming a coalition government that would seek to keep Greece in the euro.
The poll showed support for the conservative New Democracy party stood at 23.4 percent while the anti-bailout leftist SYRIZA party stood at 22.1 percent.
Socialist PASOK, which also backs the bailout, came third with 13.5 percent, the poll showed.
As many as 80.9 percent of Greeks surveyed in the same poll said the country should do whatever it takes to stay in the euro. Yet, as in previous polls, a majority - in this case 77.8 percent - said the next government should renegotiate the bailout, the terms of which stipulated steep cuts to government jobs, public pensions and wages.
EU leaders have warned Greece of the consequences of renouncing the bailout, saying they will pull the plug on funding - a move that would lead to rapid bankruptcy and an ignominious exit from the single currency.
In the coming weeks, New Democracy and PASOK, which have dominated Greek politics for decades, are likely to try to scare voters who failed to give them a majority in the last election into returning to the fold, arguing that electing SYRIZA would spell the end of the country’s euro zone membership.
New Democracy and SYRIZA were running neck-and-neck until recently but the conservatives have recovered a tentative lead.
Greek election rules give the party that comes first an automatic bonus of 50 seats in the 300-seat parliament, so that even a slim advantage could play a decisive role in determining which party forms the next government.
Polls since the May 6 election have shown SYRIZA, New Democracy and PASOK gaining in popularity at the expense of smaller parties. (link.reuters.com/ket38s).
Editing by Andrew Osborn and Mark Heinrich