ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's conservative New Democracy party, which backs the country's international bailout, has retaken the lead from the anti-bailout radical leftist SYRIZA, a poll showed on Thursday, the first published since a new election was called for June 17.
If elections were held now, New Democracy would win 26.1 percent of the vote compared with SYRIZA's 23.7 percent, according to the MARC/Alpha survey conducted on May 15-17.
Based on this result, New Democracy would win 123 seats, the pollsters said. Combined with the 41 seats projected to be won by the Socialist PASOK, Greece's two major pro-bailout parties would command a 14-seat majority in the country's 300-strong parliament.
Polls last week had showed the anti-bailout SYRIZA placing first in the election, causing alarm across the EU. European leaders have said that unless the next Greek government is committed to the bailout, Greece would face certain bankruptcy and ejection from the euro.
First place comes with an automatic bonus of 50 seats, meaning even the slightest edge could be pivotal in determining the makeup of the next government.
New Democracy placed first in an inconclusive May 6 election, but it and PASOK took a severe beating, punished for the severe austerity policies associated with the country's EU/IMF-led bailout which they backed.
That left pro- and anti-bailout parties almost evenly divided. After parties failed to form a government, President Karolos Papoulias called repeat elections for June 17.
Support for the leftist SYRIZA, which vehemently rejected the bailout, soared in the May 6 election and has risen further since, as anti-bailout voters rallied behind its 37-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras.
But support for SYRIZA appears to have declined after the party refused to join a national unity government with all the other major parties, the MARC poll showed. In the previous survey by the same agency before the coalition talks collapsed, SYRIZA led with 27.7 percent, up seven points on New Democracy.
(Reporting by Harry Papachristou; Editing by Peter Graff)
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