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Greece: Pro-bailout parties have slim lead

By Nicholas Paphitis

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 20 2012 10:46 a.m. MDT

The Greek Parliament is seen behind country's flag in Athens, Friday, April 20, 2012. Polls indicate that Greece's majority Socialists are trailing their main conservative rivals by up to 7 percentage points nearly two weeks before crucial national elections. Voting is scheduled for Sunday, May 6.

Thanassis Stavrakis, Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece — Greece's conservatives lead their Socialist rivals, according to the last opinion polls before the May 6 general election — barely enough support to continue a coalition backing the crisis-hit country's bailout deals.

Surveys for three daily newspapers published Friday indicate that the number of parties elected to parliament will rise from five to 10.

Potential newcomers include the violent extreme right Golden Dawn party, signaling growing public anger toward to the rescue deals that have pushed the country into a fifth year of recession.

The socialist Pasok and conservative New Democracy parties — which have governed Greece for nearly four decades — have been uneasy partners in a five-month coalition formed under former central banker Lucas Papademos.

Papademos negotiated massive debt restructuring agreements with banks and a second bailout package with eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund, that were vital for avoiding default.

A poll for the Athens daily Ethnos gave New Democracy 21.9 percent, and Pasok 17.8 percent — giving them a combined total of 155 seats in the 300-member parliament, compared with their current total of 201.

"Support for the two parties is already very low, since they are paying the price for harsh (austerity) measures," Thomas Gerakis, CEO of Marketing Research Communication, which carried out the poll, told the AP.

Separate surveys published Friday in the Athens dailies Ta Nea and Eleftheros Typos produced broadly similar findings, but with one of the polls giving New Democracy a 7-point advantage.

The Ethnos poll of 1,001 people on April 17-19 projected that three bitterly divided left-wing parties will receive 29 percent, that conservative splinter groups will get 17.6 percent, and Golden Dawn will garner as much as 5.2 percent — an 18-fold increase in support since the 2009 general election. No margin of error was quoted.

Gerakis said having one-in-four voters still undecided was quite unusual.

"Normally there would be 10-15 percent undecided with two weeks remaining," he said. "Right now ... the electorate is like shifting sand."

Parliament in 2009 approved legislation banning the publication of opinion polls 15 days before the date of general elections, European Parliament elections, and referendums. Polling organizations have repeatedly called on lawmakers to amend the law.

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