Poll: Greek conservatives, opposition in dead heat

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's conservative party, which leads the current governing coalition, and the opposition radical left-wing party appeared in a dead heat ahead of local and European parliament elections in May, with a newcomer beating long-established parties to rank third in voter preference, according to a new opinion poll published Friday.

Conducted by Public Issue and published by the daily Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper, the poll showed Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy party and the opposition Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras tied, with 15.5 percent of respondents intending to vote for each.

Newcomer To Potami (The River) party, launched by television journalist Stavros Theodorakis about two weeks ago, polled 7 percent, overtaking the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party to settle into third place. The socialist Pasok party, which dominated Greek politics for decades but has been criticized by many for its handling of Greece's financial crisis, appeared struggling in distant sixth place with 3.5 percent.

However, by far the largest segment of respondents — 41 percent — said they were undecided, wouldn't vote, would cast a blank ballot or wouldn't reply to the survey.

Turnout promises to be high, with 79 percent saying they would vote.

To Potami, whose ranks Theodorakis is filling with non-politicians, seems to have attracted voters from across the political spectrum.

Greece's prolonged financial crisis, which has left the country dependent on foreign handouts and led to an economic depression, has hammered traditional parties. Their support bases have evaporated, with voters attracted instead to parties formerly on the left and right fringes. Early national elections in 2012 had to go through two repetitions as parties struggled to garner enough votes to form a government.

The poll questioned 1,015 people nationwide from March 4-10 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.