January 14, 2015 / 3:03 PM / in 3 years

Greek anti-bailout party Syriza cements lead before vote

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s radical leftist Syriza party holds a steady 3.5 point lead over the ruling conservatives ahead of a snap election on Jan. 25, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday.

Alexis Tsipras (L), opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party, smiles during a meeting with members of the Greens-Ecologists party, at the party's headquarters in Athens January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

A clutch of recent polls have given Syriza a lead of over 3 percentage points, suggesting that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy conservatives are not making any inroads as the election approaches.

The Alco poll for the newspaper To Pontiki, conducted from Jan. 11-13, indicated that the anti-bailout Syriza would get 32.4 percent of the vote against 28.9 percent for New Democracy. The last Alco survey, published on Jan. 10, gave Syriza a 3.4 point lead. The surveys had a 3.1 percent margin of error.

The vote is being closely watched by financial markets nervous that a Syriza victory could trigger a standoff with EU/IMF lenders that results in Greece leaving the euro zone. The party has vowed to cancel austerity measures imposed to meet the conditions of Greece’s 240-billion-euro bailout, and to renegotiate debt obligations.

Samaras has played up the fear factor in his campaign speeches, saying Greeks could return to near-bankruptcy and a period of chaos if Syriza comes to power.

“They are leading us to a clash with our lenders, to bankruptcy, to an exit from the euro,” Samaras said in a speech on Tuesday night.

Tsipras, who has campaigned on a message of new hope for Greeks broken by years of austerity, has in turn accused Samaras of scaremongering.

“The only thing they haven’t said yet is that if Syriza comes to power it will take your children and your wives,” he said in a recent speech to supporters in northern Greece.

Opinion polls so far have indicated that Syriza is unlikely to win outright, but some have suggested it is getting closer to that goal.

Generally speaking, the leading party needs to get between 36 and 40 percent of the vote to win outright and form a government, though the exact threshold depends on the share of vote taken by parties that fail to reach the 3 percent threshold to enter parliament. The electoral system automatically gives the winning party an extra 50 seats to make it easier to form a government.

The newly created centrist party To Potami (River) - the most likely ally for Syriza in a coalition government, according to analysts - ranked third in the Alco survey with 5.3 percent. It was followed by the far-right Golden Dawn, with 5.2 percent, and the Communist KKE after that.

Support for the co-ruling Socialists (PASOK) dropped to 3.7 percent.

A party set up by former prime minister George Papandreou, the Movement of Democratic Socialists, scored 2.5 percent, below the threshold to enter parliament.

Additional reporting Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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