Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras (R) and his New Democracy counterpart Vangelis Meimarakis are the two leading contenders in Sunday's election
Athens (AFP) - Final polls before Sunday's key Greek election gave a slim lead to radical left former prime minister Alexis Tsipras over his conservative rival.
Issued hours before a ban on polls comes into force at midnight on Friday, four voting surveys predicted a narrow victory for Tsipras over conservative leader Vangelis Meimarakis by margins ranging from 0.7 to 3.0 percentage points.
The Rass polling institute credited Tsipras' Syriza party with 28.2 percent of the vote against 27.5 percent for the conservative New Democracy party.
The Marc institute saw Syriza ahead at 26.2 percent against 25.1 for New Democracy while Avghi predicted a 33 percent vote for Tsipras against 30 percent for Meimarakis.
The GPO institute forecast a 2.5 percent lead for Syriza, with a victory of 28.5 percent over New Democracy at 26 percent.
Burned in July by failure to predict the result of Greece's anti-austerity referendum, pollsters are treading carefully about predicting the winner of Sunday's vote.
Polling institutes are working "in shifting sands, after seven months of major political upheaval", said Thomas Gerakis at the Marc institute.
Earlier Friday five other opinion polls showed the two leading contenders neck-and-neck just 48 hours before the vote.
All showed the two main contenders garnering between 25 and 30 percent of the vote, with the remaining parties picking up single-digit scores.
Two surveys gave Syriza a lead of 0.3 and 3.6 percent respectively, while two others placed New Democracy ahead by 0.3 and 1.4 percent.
The Pulse polling institute put Syriza and New Democracy neck-to-neck at 28 percent.
- Voter fluidity -
Political scientist Manos Papazoglou from Peloponnese University said polling showed "the fluidity of the electoral body" in a country whose "political landscape has been totally shaken up since 2010", when Greece's economic crisis erupted.
Many of those who voted for Syriza in January -- which then won office with 36.3 percent of the vote -- "will decide at the last minute", he said, given the disenchantment caused by Tsipras' U-turn agreement with Athens' international creditors in July to implement harsh austerity reforms in return for a financial rescue.
The charismatic young leader won the January vote on promises of rejecting austerity for Greece and in July gathered 61.3 percent for the "No" side in a referendum where he put a deal with creditors to the electorate.
Opinion polls showed around 10 percent of voters undecided only 48 hours ahead of the vote.
Polling institutes forecast the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in third place with between 5.6 and 7.2 percent.
The once powerful socialist Pasok party is tipped to win around five percent of the vote, as are the Communists and the centrist Potami party, meaning they should pass the three percent threshold to gain entry into parliament.
With neither Tsipras nor Meimarakis forecast to win an outright majority, whoever wins is likely to have to form a coalition, though under the Greek system the winning party in the general election picks up an extra 50 seats in the 300-member parliament.