Greek Syriza poll lead narrows ahead of key presidential vote

Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece's Syriza party, gestures during a meeting in central Madrid November 15, 2014. REUTERS/Juan Medina (Reuters)

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's anti-bailout Syriza party is more popular than Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy but its lead has narrowed, an opinion poll showed early on Tuesday, a day ahead of the first round of a crucial presidential vote. The survey conducted by GPO pollsters for MEGA TV showed support for Alexis Tsipras' Syriza at 28 percent versus New Democracy, which would get 23.1 percent, if elections were held now. The co-ruling Pasok party would get 5.1 percent. About 15 percent of those polled said they were undecided. A survey by the same pollster in October had shown Syriza leading with 6.5 percentage points over New Democracy. The ruling coalition last week brought a key presidential vote forward by two months, leaving a final bailout review and plans for a negotiated exit from its EU/IMF bailout program up in the air, while it seeks parliamentary backing. To survive the vote, the government needs the backing of 180 lawmakers. Failure to get its nominee for the largely ceremonial post elected by the final round of voting on Dec. 29 would trigger a snap parliamentary election. About 64 percent of those polled by GPO last week approved of the government's decision to bring the presidential vote forward. More than half of the respondents said they wanted the current parliament to elect a president, while 59 percent said the risk of a euro zone exit had not been removed. Tsipras ranked first in popularity among political leaders, but Samaras was more suitable for prime minister, the poll showed. The GPO poll was the latest in a series of surveys that showed the gap between Syriza and New Democracy narrowing after the government brought the presidential vote forward. A separate survey by MRB for Mega TV, which was conducted Dec. 10-13, showed Syriza leading with 3.2 percentage points. An Alco poll published on Sunday showed Syriza's lead narrowing to 3.6 percentage points, from 4.8 percent earlier this month. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Toni Reinhold)