Greek voters are returning to the establishment parties that negotiated its bailout, a poll showed on Thursday, offering potential salvation for European leaders who say a snap Greek election next month will decide whether it must quit the euro.
The poll, the first conducted since talks to form a government collapsed and a new election was called for June 17, showed the conservative New Democracy party in first place, several points ahead of the radical leftist SYRIZA which has pledged to tear up the bailout.
EU leaders say that without the bailout, Greece would be headed for certain bankruptcy and ejection from the common currency, which would sow financial destruction across the continent. The prospect SYRIZA would win the election has sent the euro and markets across the continent plummeting this week.
The poll predicted New Democracy would win 26.1 percent of the vote compared to 23.7 percent for SYRIZA.
Crucially, it showed that along with the Socialist PASOK party, New Democracy would have enough seats to form a pro-bailout government, which it failed to win in an election on May 6, forcing a new vote and prompting a political crisis that has put the future of the euro in doubt.
Polls last week had showed SYRIZA well in front, with anti-bailout voters rallying behind its charismatic 37-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras. First place comes with a bonus of 50 extra seats in the 300-seat parliament, so even a tiny edge would be pivotal in determining who forms the next government.
The election is still a month away, and Greek voters have been fickle. Experts warned against drawing any strong conclusions from a single poll. Nevertheless, a trend that had shown SYRIZA surging ahead appears to have turned.
“It seems people vented their anger in the election and then they got scared. They disliked that there was no government and they got worried about a possible exit from the euro,” political analyst John Loulis said of the surprise poll result.
“Still, voters are far from enthusiastic with New Democracy. Things are still volatile. The outcome of the elections will depend on who will make the fewest mistakes.”