ATHENS, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- The leaders of all Greek political parties represented in the previous parliament, with the exception of the far-Right Golden Dawn, were getting ready on Wednesday to participate in a first TV debate ahead of the September 20 early general elections.
With all recent opinion surveys suggesting an electoral thriller with the Radical Left SYRIZA party and the conservatives of New Democracy (ND) running neck and neck for the first place, the debate could help the two key contenders as well as smaller parties to win over the undecided, according to political analysts in Athens.
Pollsters estimated that the Greek voters who have still not decided which party they will support reach up to 12 percent.
Former Prime Minister and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras will cross his sword with ND chief Vangelis Meimarakis on issues ranging from the economy and the refugees crisis to education, health, foreign policy and defense.
It will be the first debate of political leaders in Greece in six years. The two leaders were scheduled to take part in one more debate on September 14.
On Thursday night they will be joined on the public broadcaster ERT by socialist PASOK head Fofi Gennimata, centrist Potami (River) party head Stavros Theodorakis and Communist Party KKE General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas.
The panel will also include Panagiotis Lafazanis, a former SYRIZA minister and current leader of the anti-bailout party Popular Unity which was formed in late August by SYRIZA hardliners when Tsipras resigned to force the snap polls, as well as Panos Kammenos, leader of the Right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, the junior partner in Tsipras' seven month administration.
During the electoral campaign so far Tsipras has defended his choice to make a U-turn from previous anti-bailout rhetoric and agree to a painful third bailout with international lenders this summer in order to avert an imminent default and Grexit.
He has requested a fresh mandate from Greek people to form a government that will try to ease the burden of the new three- year austerity and reform program with parallel policies.
The Leftist former Premier called on Greeks to make a choice between the old and the new in Greek politics. He has rejected cooperation with the ND, but indicated that PASOK or Potami could be his possible coalition partners if ANEL will not enter the next assembly, as several polls have showed.
With all recent opinion surveys showing that no party will win absolute parliamentary majority, Meimarakis on the other hand has repeatedly expressed his party's willingness to cooperate with all sides to form a broader national unity government.
Most opinion polls over the past two weeks have indicated that SYRIZA holds a slight lead over ND. Some pollsters have estimated that the conservatives have gained momentum and a marginal lead over SYRIZA.
The latest survey released on Wednesday showed a 0.5 percent lead by SYRIZA over ND with 26.5 percent of votes and 26 percent respectively.
According to the poll carried out by polling firm Pulse for the Action 24 private television Golden Dawn will remain the third largest party in parliament with 6.5 percent.
PASOK which cooperates with the Democratic Left (DIMAR) party gains 6 percent, according to the Pulse survey, KKE 5.5 percent and the River 5 percent.
The Popular Union and the centre- Left Union of Centrists, a party with marginal influence over the past two decades, both garner 3.5 percent of votes according to the poll, while ANEL with 2 percent fail to secure the three percent threshold to enter the next parliament.