Opinion poll lead for Greece's anti-bailout party narrows

ATHENS (Reuters) - The lead that Greece's anti-bailout party Syriza has over the ruling conservatives has narrowed, according to two polls published after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was forced to call a parliamentary election on Jan. 25. A survey by Marc for Alpha TV showed the left-wing Syriza would get 28.1 percent of the vote if elections were held now, versus 25.1 percent for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's New Democracy party - down from a 3.6 point lead last week. However, about a third of the respondents said they would prefer a New Democracy-led coalition government after the election compared with 23.7 percent who want a Syriza-led coalition. A majority of polls have shown that no party is likely to win outright, making a coalition government, which has become the norm as Greece tries to claw its way out of six years of economic crisis, the most likely outcome. Support for the co-ruling Socialists (PASOK) was 4.6 percent. The poll was published hours after lawmakers failed to elect a president on Monday, triggering the dissolution of parliament and the election next month. The telephone survey of 1,017 households, conducted on Dec. 26-28 nationwide - before Monday's presidential vote - showed that 58.6 percent of Greeks were against snap elections. Syriza has been ahead of the government in opinion polls for months but its lead has shrunk in recent weeks as the showdown in parliament neared. It wants to wipe out a big part of the national debt, and cancel the austerity terms of a 240-billion euro bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund that Greece needs to pay its bills. Another poll, published late on Tuesday, showed Syriza leading by 4.5 points over the ruling conservatives, down from 6.5 points earlier in December. The poll which was conducted Dec. 28-30 by the University of Macedonia for Skai TV, put support for Syriza at 29.5 percent versus 25 percent in favour of New Democracy. About 15 percent of the respondents were undecided. The far-right Golden Dawn party ranked third with 6 percent, while the recently created centrist party To Potami and the Communist KKE party were battling for the fourth place, garnering 5 percent respectively. Support for PASOK party was 4 percent. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Alison Williams)

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