NEWS

Debt swap enters final strait

Chief negotiator upbeat on deal this week as focus shifts to politics with poll seeing nine parties in Parl?t

Another crucial week for Greece begins as the government enters the final strait of a crucial debt swap involving private bondholders, with a decision expected on Thursday night as to whether participation in the exchange is adequate.

The chief negotiator for the International Institute of Finance (IIF), the body representing the bondholders, expressed optimism on Saturday that the exchange would be completed successfully by the end of the week. Noting that discussions with bondholders were ?gaining momentum,? IIF Managing Director Charles Dallara told private television channel ANT1 that he was ?quite optimistic? that participation levels would be ?quite high.? He refused to speculate about the level of the participation.

The government is aiming to secure 90 percent but a participation rate below 70 percent could trigger a payout of credit default swaps, financial products that act as insurance against default.

Notwithstanding speculation over the outcome of the debt swap, the focus has shifted, at least in part, to domestic affairs after Prime Minister Lucas Papademos informed officials attending a European Union summit last week that early general elections will be held either on April 29 or May 6. As a pre-election atmosphere is said to be building in the ranks of the political parties, a new opinion poll shows conservative New Democracy remaining far ahead of other political parties but still unlikely to be able to form a majority government in the next elections.

The poll, conducted by Public Issue, found that a total of nine parties would enter Parliament in the next elections, up from five. ND would attract 28 percent of the popular vote, down 3 percent from last month, with Socialist PASOK at just 11 percent and the Democratic Left steady at 16 percent. The rightwing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) has seen its support ebb to 4 percent, according to the poll, while two small parties -- the extreme rightwing Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) and a rightwing anti-austerity movement, Independent Greeks, set up by ousted ND deputy Panos Kammenos -- are seen as crossing the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament.

The popularity of Papademos stands at 45 percent, according to the poll.

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