Parliament ties up loose ends ahead of snap polls

Greece’s Parliament on Tuesday prepared to wrap legislative activity ahead of snap elections expected next month, with a new poll predicting an uncertain outcome owing to anti-austerity anger in the country.

The 300-seat chamber was scheduled to approve by the evening a labor bill restructuring social security funds, the last piece of legislation that the caretaker government of Lucas Papademos had pledged to pass before the ballot.

“Legislative activity closes with the social security bill,» a Parliament source told AFP, adding: «The chamber was supposed to close anyway for the Easter break,» a four-day weekend between April 13-16.

Papademos this week is expected to submit his mandate to the head of state, President Karolos Papoulias, who will then issue a decree dissolving Parliament and calling for elections within 30 days.

According to ministers and other officials, May 6 is the most likely date.

“All the conditions are present for elections on May 6,» Antonis Samaras, head of the conservative New Democracy party that leads opinion polls, told private Mega television in an interview on Monday.

Mega released a poll giving New Democracy a four-point lead over the socialist PASOK party, which is narrowing the gap under its new leader, former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

The survey by pollsters GPO suggests that with a mere 18.2 percent of the vote, New Democracy may be unable to form a majority government.

Amid mounting anger over two years of painful austerity, nearly one in five respondents did not give a party preference and over 3 percent said they would support a neo-Nazi party, giving them enough votes to enter Parliament.

Papademos took over in November as head of a coalition backed by New Democracy and PASOK to complete a debt-saving bond swap with private creditors and ratify a eurozone bailout worth 130 billion euros ($171 billion).

Greece in June will attempt to economize another 11.5 billion euros ($15 billion) by 2014 to meet conditions under a previous EU-IMF debt rescue.

Most of the 1,200 people questioned in Monday’s poll said they wanted a coalition government and 56 percent took a dim view of Papademos’s legacy. [AFP]