Supporters and opponents of Greece's international bailout are virtually neck and neck going into a June 17 election that may decide the country's future in the euro zone, polls showed on Friday, the last day their publication is allowed.
Three surveys showed the conservative New Democracy party, which backs the country's international bailout, with a narrow lead. But one poll put the radical leftist SYRIZA party, which strongly opposes the bailout, first.
SYRIZA says it wants Greece to stay in the euro but ditch the 130-billion-euro international rescue package and the tough austerity policies prescribed by the European Union and other lenders to help dig Athens out of its debt hole.
EU leaders have warned Greece against renouncing the bailout, threatening to pull the plug on new funding, a move that could lead to rapid bankruptcy and an ignominious Greek exit from the single currency.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday a return to the drachma was not an option, reiterating his stance that Greece must cancel the bailout and renegotiate a new plan to help its battered economy recover.
"There is no danger of us leaving the euro zone. We need to cancel the bailout which has led to catastrophe," he said.
"We will replace it with a national plan to resurrect the economy."
Greece's electoral system awards a huge bonus - an extra 50 parliamentary seats - to whichever party wins a parliamentary election, making it practically impossible for its rivals to form a government without it.
On Friday, SYRIZA pledged to freeze privatisations as well as wage and pension cuts if elected.
New Democracy accused SYRIZA of making promises it will not be able to keep. "This is political fraud," said New Democracy's spokesman Yannis Mihelakis.
New Democracy and the Socialist PASOK, the other pro-bailout party, are campaigning on a promise to water down the harsh austerity measures included in the country's bailout deal without falling out with international lenders.
Greece has been hit hard, suffering more than four years of recession as well as surging unemployment and dwindling cash reserves. Weary of an austerity program that has led to cuts in pay and pensions as well as higher taxes, the electorate does not see any light at the end of the tunnel.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Harry Papachristou; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Andrew Heavens)
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