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One-third of Greeks favor early elections

An opinion poll in the Hellenic Republic has revealed that 37 percent of Greeks would welcome early elections to resolve Athens' protracted standoff with its lenders over a cash-for-reforms deal.

Just under half of all Greeks are also evidently in favor of the government striking a deal with international creditors, the poll found, but on the condition that demands for more austerity be mitigated.

The survey, published on Friday, was significant because Greece's far-left government has repeatedly said that it may call early elections if its creditors do not soften their demands for spending cuts and labor market and pension reforms in exchange for money that would help Athens service its debts.

"The lenders want to impose hard measures. If they do not back down from this package of blackmail, the government … will have to seek alternative solutions, elections," said Greece's Deputy Social Security Minister, Dimitris Stratoulis.

More time

Conducted for the news website Newsit, the poll came

a day after Greece bought itself more time

to strike a bailout deal by announcing that it would bundle four looming payments to the International Monetary Fund into one due June 30.

A possible debt default carries the prospect of Greece being forced out of the eurozone.

Asked during a BBC Radio interview whether Greece was prepared to leave the common currency area, the country's economy minister, George Stathakis, said Greek voters had given Syriza a mandate to negotiate a better deal with Brussels, not a mandate to leave the eurozone.

"Greece has to remain within the euro," Stathakis said. "Our government has a mandate to remain in the euro and get a better deal to … try to change the terms of the agreement that we have with European partners."

According to the poll, 75 percent of Greeks want their country to remain in the eurozone.

cjc/hg (Reuters, dpa)

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