Greek vote result too close to call, polls show
ATHENS (Reuters) - The outcome of an election next month that may decide whether Greece remains in the euro was still uncertain on Wednesday after polls showed parties for and against a bailout neck-and-neck or very close to each another.
Of three polls published, one showed Greece's biggest pro- and anti-bailout parties, New Democracy and SYRIZA, in a dead heat. Another put New Democracy ahead and a third suggested that the leftist SYRIZA party would win if elections were held now.
The contradictory forecasts are likely to unsettle markets and politicians who fear that a win by the radical SYRIZA party, which has said it wants to remain in the euro but ditch the austerity measures the country has been prescribed, would force debt-laden Greece out of the single currency.
With concerns about the level of debt in other euro zone countries such as Spain and Portugal growing, some European policy makers fear a disorderly "Grexit" could trigger a domino effect, sapping confidence in the single currency at a time when the currency bloc is struggling to defend its credibility.
Greece was forced to call the June 17 vote after a parliamentary election on May 6 left parliament divided evenly between groups of parties that support and oppose austerity conditions attached to a 130-billion-euro rescue package agreed with lenders in March.
The subsequent failure of any party to form a workable coalition government, and the success of SYRIZA, which came second, sent shock waves through Europe and threw Greece's future in the single currency into doubt.
The latest poll on Wednesday - by Pulse for the weekly newspaper Pontiki - showed backing for SYRIZA and the pro-bailout New Democracy party evenly spread at 24.5 percent.
But earlier, a poll by VPRC for Epikaira magazine, showed SYRIZA in the lead with 30 percent of the vote, putting the New Democracy party in second place with 26.5 percent of the vote.
To confuse things further, another forecast by the GPO polling agency earlier on Wednesday put the New Democracy party ahead with 23.4 percent and the anti-bailout leftist SYRIZA party behind with 22.1 percent.
Opinion polls have been fickle in recent weeks, however, making it tough to call what is shaping up to be a gripping close-run election.
The last six polls published before Wednesday showed the pro-bailout New Democracy party ahead - by between 0.5 and 5.7 percentage points - suggesting it was opening up some kind of a lead, however narrow.
But the contradictory nature of Wednesday's polls have left political analysts wary of predicting the final result.
They have warned that poll results should be treated cautiously because of the volatility of voter moods. A sea-change in the political landscape, a fifth year of recession and record unemployment are stretching voters' party political loyalties to their limits, they say.
EU leaders have warned Greece of the consequences of renouncing the bailout, saying they will pull the plug on new funding - a move that would lead to Athens' rapid bankruptcy and an ignominious exit from the single currency.
Separately, the EU turned up pressure on Greece on Wednesday, saying that it must step up reforms to keep getting full bailout aid. It also warned that the date of the next EU/International Monetary Fund inspection visit to Athens will depend on the outcome of the June 17 election.
(Writing by Andrew Osborn and Harry Papachristou; Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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