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Jan 24, 2015 5:35 PM

Leftists ahead in last polls before Greek national election

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) Syriza, the radical left-wing party that has vowed to rewrite the terms of the country's international bailout and end harsh austerity measures, held the lead in the last polls released ahead of Sunday's national election.

The last nine polls published on Friday the last day of campaigning showed Syriza's lead over the ruling New Democracy conservatives trending upward. Syriza led by anywhere from 2.8 to 6.7 percentage points. Syriza has taken advantage of widespread discontent over an economy that has shrunk by nearly a quarter and record-high unemployment.

The centrist party, To Potami, and the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party were locked in a tight race for third place, according to the polls.

But the polls also indicated that around 10 percent of the nearly 10 million voters remain undecided.

There was no campaigning Saturday, a traditional "day of reflection" ahead of every election.

Syriza has alarmed international markets by calling for massive debt forgiveness and rewriting bailout deals with Greece's international creditors.

In the last national election in June 2012, many saw a Syriza victory as a precursor to a possible Greek exit from the eurozone, the 19 nations that now share the euro currency.

Now, Greece's European partners are less exposed to fallout from a Greek financial collapse. The eurozone has a bailout fund and the European Central Bank has committed to buy the bonds of troubled countries, if needed.

Syriza has tried to play up its mainstream, Europe-friendly aspects. But such efforts have been undermined by erratic bombshells from some Syriza officials one candidate suggested printing euros if push comes to shove and another, touted by many media as Greece's next foreign minister, said the suspended bailout assessment should not be completed and that Greece did not need a 7.2-billion-euro ($8.1 billion) loan tranche.

Still, Greece's next government faces an enormous to-do list. It must consolidate reforms, keep running balanced budgets, strengthen weak growth after a six-year recession, conclude the frozen bailout assessment talks to secure the above-mentioned loan tranche and negotiate further relief for its bloated, 320-billion-euro ($359-billion) debt.

Creditors insist Athens must honor its bailout commitments if it is to receive continued support. If things go wrong, Greece could again face default despite its 240-billion-euro ($269 billion) bailout and years of belt-tightening and find its eurozone membership untenable.

According to some surveys, many voters believe that a Syriza government will not fulfill its campaign promises to play tough with the creditors, but are nonetheless voting for the party. These voters are in a mood to punish the current conservative-socialist coalition government for the hardships they believe have been unnecessarily inflicted on them, such as deep wage and pension cuts coupled with tax hikes.


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