Greeks withdraw cash, stock food ahead of vote
ATHENS - Reuters
A Greek man holds 100 Euro bills which he just withdrew from a branch of Eurobank in central Athens June 13, 2012. EPA photo
Greeks pulled their cash out of the banks and stocked up with food ahead of a cliffhanger election on Sunday that many citizens fear will result in the country being forced out of the euro.
Bankers said up to 800 million euros were leaving major banks daily and retailers said some of the money was being used to buy pasta and canned goods in case of shortages, as fears of returning to the drachma were fanned by rumours that a radical leftist leader may win the election.
The last published opinion polls showed the conservative New Democracy party, which backs the 130-billion-euro bailout that is keeping Greece afloat, running neck-and-neck with the leftist SYRIZA party, which wants to cancel the rescue deal.
As the election approaches, publishing polls is now legally banned and in the ensuing information vacuum, party officials have been leaking contradictory "secret polls".
On Tuesday, one rumor making the rounds was that SYRIZA was leading by a wide margin.
"This is nonsense," one reputable Greek pollster said, on condition of anonymity. "Our polls show the picture has not changed much since the last polls were published. Parties may be leaking these numbers on purpose to boost their standing."
The pollster said there was some consolidation, with voters turning to New Democracy and SYRIZA from smaller parties but the pool of undecided voters remained unusually large so close to the election and the result was impossible to predict.
Both parties say they want Greece to remain in the single currency but SYRIZA has pledged to scrap the bailout agreement signed in March which has imposed some of the toughest austerity measures seen in Europe in decades.
The European Union and International Monetary Fund have warned that Greece, which has only enough cash to last for a few weeks, must stick to the conditions of the bailout deal or risk seeing funds cut off.