ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s radical leftist Syriza party would beat Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s conservatives if an election were held now but its lead has slipped from last month, an opinion poll showed on Saturday.
Syriza, ahead by 8.5 percentage points, is deeply opposed to the international bailout that helped Athens avoid a debt default in return for tough measures to repair its finances and make its economy more competitive.
Samaras, looking to bolster his support at home, has said he wants to pull Greece out of its bailout program by the end of December -- a year ahead of schedule -- despite uncertainty about how the country where the euro zone debt crisis began would finance itself.
Parliamentary elections are not due until June 2016. However, a presidential vote in February or March could trigger early elections next year, because Samaras’s coalition government does not have enough backing to push through its nominee for head of state.
A Public Issue survey for newspaper Ton Syntakton showed support for Syriza running at 35.5 percent against 27 percent for Samaras’s New Democracy party and 6 percent for the PASOK Socialists, the junior partners in the ruling coalition.
A previous Public Issue poll in September showed backing for Syriza at 36 percent versus 25 percent for New Democracy -- a lead of 11 percentage points.
“Four in 10 respondents think Syriza would win by a small margin compared to 43 percent in September, while those who see a big-margin win rose to 26 percent from 21 percent in September,” the newspaper said.
Most recent surveys have suggested that if elections were held now, there would be no outright winner.
Saturday’s poll said 55 percent of those questioned saw no need for early elections but 63 percent believed snap polls will not be avoided.
Under Greek law, parliament must be dissolved if it fails to elect a president. Syriza has said it will not back any candidate put forward by the ruling coalition.
In an interview with financial daily Imerisia, Greece’s Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis said political uncertainty could hurt Greece’s hard-won credibility at the last stretch of its economic adjustment under the bailout and deter investors.
“I do not believe early elections could offer anything (good) and this is why I have not stopped asking for consensus on the major issues,” the minister told the paper. “We need growth and investments.”
Worries over Greece’s plans for an early pullout from its bailout sparked a major sell-off of Greek bonds and stock earlier this month.
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Ruth Pitchford