Greeks withdraw cash ahead of vote

Greeks pulled their cash out of the banks and stocked up with food ahead of a cliffhanger election on Sunday that many fear will result in the country being forced out of the euro.

Bankers said up to 800 million euros ($1 billion) were leaving major banks daily and retailers said some of the money was being used to buy pasta and canned goods, as fears of returning to the drachma were fanned by rumours that a radical leftist leader may win the election.

The last published opinion polls showed the conservative New Democracy party, which backs the 130 billion euro ($160 billion) bailout that is keeping Greece afloat, running neck and neck with the leftist SYRIZA party, which wants to cancel the rescue deal.

On Tuesday, one rumour making the rounds was that SYRIZA was leading by a wide margin. “This is nonsense,” one reputable Greek pollster said on condition of anonymity.

The pollster said there was some consolidation, with voters turning to New Democracy and SYRIZA from smaller parties but the pool of undecided voters remained unusually large so close to the election and the result was impossible to predict. Both parties say they want Greece to remain in the single currency but SYRIZA has pledged to scrap the bailout agreement signed in March which has imposed some of the toughest austerity measures seen in Europe in decades.

The European Union and International Monetary Fund have warned that Greece, which has only enough cash to last for a few weeks, must stick to the conditions of the bailout deal or risk seeing funds cut off. Fears that Greece will collapse financially and leave the euro have slowly drained Greek banks over the last two years.

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