ATHENS - Reuters
A young Greek sits on a pedestrian rail next to a party election campaign poster in a rundown area of central Athens. REUTERS photo
Bookmakers see Greece's conservative New Democracy winning Sunday's election but political parties say the race is so close that even an international football match or the weather may help usher the radical left into power.
Greeks angry after two years of austerity and decades of corruption punished mainstream politicians in an inconclusive election on May 6 that catapulted the SYRIZA party to a surprise second place, turning the fringe leftists into serious contenders in Sunday's repeat vote.
The most recent opinion polls, published before a ban came into effect two weeks before the election, showed New Democracy about neck and neck with SYRIZA ahead of an election that may decide whether the debt-ridden country remains in the euro.
Five pollsters favoured New Democracy, which backs a 130 billion euro bailout keeping Greece
afloat, while two fancied the upstart SYRIZA, which wants to scrap the bailout, end privatisations and nationalize banks.
Just days before the vote, London-based Betfair put New Democracy on 1:3 and Ladbrokes quoted 4:11, while SYRIZA was on 11:4 and 15:8 respectively, suggesting a conservative victory was more likely. Dublin-based Paddy Power gave New Democracy 2:7 and SYRIZA 9:4.
During the ban on publishing polls, leaks of "secret" and often contradictory polls are making the rounds of Athens blogs and coffee shops. One such poll showing New Democracy in the lead even pushed the Athens Stock Exchange 10 percent up on Thursday, its biggest daily gain since last August.
Pollsters say the odds have not changed much since the last polls were published and at the headquarters of political parties, officials say the race is too close to call.
New Democracy has told voters they must decide whether or not they wish to remain in the euro, saying a SYRIZA victory would mean lenders will turn off the funding taps and Greece
would be forced to leave the common currency.
SYRIZA says the bailout did nothing but plunge Greece
into its worse recession in years, with poor people suffering the most from austerity measures attached to its funding, while the rich who plundered Greek
wealth for decades enjoy impunity.
No party is expected to win an outright majority, and negotiations will follow to form a pro-bailout or an anti-bailout coalition government. Football and the weather
An unusually large numbers of voters are still wavering, pollsters say. With the traditional Greek
left-right political divide sidelined by the debt crisis, other factors could sway voters.
"Nothing is certain, many voters are still undecided and factors such as the football match may be a major factor," said a candidate for New Democracy.
Greece play Russia
late on Saturday in the European Football Championships in Poland. If Greece
wins, they will progress beyond the group stage and could face Germany on June 22.
"Our analysts say a victory may fan nationalist feelings but they are not sure which party would benefit from that," the candidate said.
A second big factor is the weather, he said. Unusually high temperatures may send younger voters to the beach rather than the polling stations.