The main opposition PASOK party has extended its lead over ruling New Democracy to 7.5 percentage points, which would bring it close to forming a parliamentary majority in the event of elections, but Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis remains the most popular choice for leader, a new opinion poll has shown. According to the survey carried out by Public Issue on behalf of Skai and Kathimerini with the participation of 1,024 respondents, 41.5 percent said they would vote for PASOK in the event of early elections, compared to just 34 percent for ND. The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) amassed 8.5 percent of respondents’ votes followed by 7 percent for the Communist Party and 3 percent for the Ecologist Greens. Translated into parliamentary seats, this result would give PASOK between 149 and 152, depending on whether the Ecologist Greens would pass the 3 percent threshold necessary in order to win seats in Parliament, with between 89 and 92 for ND. This unfavorable outlook for the ruling party, and the swing in PASOK’s favor, is believed to reflect public discontent with recent tax measures, rising crime and the latest corruption scandal involving former minister Aristotelis Pavlidis. Speaking on Saturday during an official visit to the northern prefecture of Pella, Karamanlis accused Papandreou of «populism and irresponsibility» for criticizing ND for its «difficult decisions.» «I am not interested in being liked, the only thing that interests me is being useful to the country,» the premier said. But Karamanlis’s appeal to voters appears to be holding strong, according to the poll, with 42 percent believing he is the best choice for premier, against 33 percent preferring PASOK leader George Papandreou. One in four respondents, however, believe neither party leader can cut it as premier.