The Socialist opposition in Greece has extended its lead over the New Democracy Government to seven and a half percentage points, which would bring it close to forming a parliamentary majority in the event of elections.

However Prime Minister Costa Karamanlis remains the most popular choice for leader, a new opinion poll has shown.

Forty one percent of all people surveyed for the Public Issue said they would vote for PASOK in the event of early elections, compared to just 34 percent for New Democracy.

Eight percent of respondent said they would vote for The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), seven percent for the Communist Party and three percent for the Greens.

This would give PASOK between 149 and 152 seats, depending on whether the Greens would pass the 3 percent threshold necessary in order to win seats in Parliament, with between 89 and 92 for New Democracy.

The swing to PASOK is believed to reflect public discontent with recent tax measures, rising crime and the latest corruption scandal involving former minister Aristotelis Pavlidis.

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.