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Portuguese Socialists fight back ahead of vote

Outgoing Portuguese prime minister Jose Socrates’ Socialist Party has regained public support from the centre-right opposition ahead of June elections focused on the country’s debt problem.

An opinion poll published Thursday for Diario Economico daily and TSF radio gave the socialists 36.1 percent of voting intentions, against 35.3 percent for the main opposition Social Democrat (PSD) party.

A month ago the Social Democrats were tipped to win handsomely in the June 5 ballot called after Socrates failed to win parliamentary support for stiff austerity measures.

The rejection of the measures forced Lisbon to apply for a massive bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, in the wake of Greece and Ireland.

Diario Economico said that accounting for the 3.45 percent margin of error in the Marktest poll of 805 people the two parties were neck and neck.

The result means that the Socialist Party is almost back to the 36.5 percent backing which gave it victory in September 2009 elections against 29.1 percent for the PSD.

Diario Economico said it was the first time since September 2010 that rightist parties combined had less than 50 percent support.

The previous Marktest poll published two days after Socrates resigned gave the PSD 46.7 percent against 24.5 percent for the Socialists.

However another poll carried Wednesday in the financial daily showed Portuguese overwhelmingly blamed Socrates for the current crisis.