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Greek anti-bailout party ahead in polls, vows to topple government after Sunday elections

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ATHENS, Greece - An anti-bailout party that is leading Greek opinion polls ahead of this weekend's local government and European elections vowed Thursday to scrap international agreements that rescued the country's economy from bankruptcy at the cost of harsh austerity.

Three opinion polls also published Thursday found that support for the left-wing Syriza party was 2.5 per cent to 3.2 percentage points ahead of the conservative New Democracy party, which leads Greece's coalition government.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras declared at his party's main election rally in Athens that a Syriza victory in Sunday's twin polls would force the government to call early parliamentary elections.

"We will build a road of social security, and scrap the bailout agreements once and for all, along with the laws brought in to enforce them," he told thousands of supporters.

The 2-year-old government has ruled out calling early elections regardless of Sunday's results. But a heavy defeat could rattle parties in the coalition, which has a majority of just two seats in the 300-member parliament, after repeatedly expelling lawmakers who refused to back austerity measures.

The 39-year-old Tsipras is also running as a left-wing candidate for the continent's top political job, European Commission president. He has promised to provide a pro-growth alternative to austerity in dealing with high levels of national debt in many eurozone countries.

He described Sunday's vote as a "referendum for our lives, for Greece, and for Europe."

Public support for the once-tiny Syriza has grown roughly five-fold since Greece came to the brink of bankruptcy in 2010, fueling a rapid rise in levels of poverty and unemployment that spurred voters to abandon traditional parties.

Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras argued during campaigning that a Syriza government would squander sacrifices made to repair the country's public finances, return the country to excessive borrowing, and jeopardize chances of ending the recession this year.

Samaras will speak Friday at his party's final rally at Athens' Syntagma Square.

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Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos

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