"The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully," said the man who compiled the first English language dictionary Samuel Johnson. And it appears that Greek voters have taken Johnson's words to heart.
Greek voters are returning to the establishment parties that negotiated its bailout, a poll showed on Thursday, offering potential salvation for European leaders who say a snap Greek election next month will decide whether it must quit the euro.
The poll, the first conducted since talks to form a government collapsed and a new election was called for June 17, showed the conservative New Democracy party in first place, several points ahead of the radical leftist SYRIZA which has pledged to tear up the bailout.
EU leaders say that without the bailout, Greece would be headed for certain bankruptcy and ejection from the common currency, which would sow financial destruction across the continent. The prospect SYRIZA would win the election has sent the euro and markets across the continent plummeting this week.
The poll predicted New Democracy would win 26.1 percent of the vote compared to 23.7 percent for SYRIZA.
Crucially, it showed that along with the Socialist PASOK party, New Democracy would have enough seats to form a pro-bailout government, which it failed to win in an election on May 6, forcing a new vote and prompting a political crisis that has put the future of the euro in doubt.
Polls last week had showed SYRIZA well in front, with anti-bailout voters rallying behind its charismatic 37-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras. First place comes with a bonus of 50 extra seats in the 300-seat parliament, so even a tiny edge would be pivotal in determining who forms the next government.
Greek voters hate the bailout and the austerity budget the country's parliament was forced to pass to receive the cash. But they would hate going back to the drachma even more. It's a horrible situation to be sure, but the Greek voter appears to be finally facing the reality of the situation. As bad as the austerity budget is, a Grexit would be several orders of mangitude worse.
They took their anger out on incumbents in the May 6 vote, elevating a radical socialist to prominence and even empowering a neo-Nazi party by electing several radical right deputies. But for the June 17 contest, with their economic future on the line, Greeks appear ready to return to their traditional loyalties and elect a government that will try to keep them in the euro zone.
At least at this point, it looks like making the election a referendum on the euro was a good choice by the bail out parties.