ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's once-mighty socialist PASOK party will team up with a new center-left group to contest European Parliament elections in May rather than run alone, after its support was decimated by the country's debt crisis.
The party, a junior partner in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has been fighting to survive as a political force since backing austerity cuts and is hoping the new alliance will help revive its fortunes.
The European elections to be held in May alongside local elections will be a key test of support for the fragile coalition, which is under pressure to show a recovery has taken root after four years of austerity.
Latest polls show Samaras' conservative New Democracy party tied with the leftist, anti-bailout Syriza party, while PASOK's support is down to just 5-6 percent, from 43 percent when it won the national election in 2009.
The socialist party will run under a joint ticket in the EU elections with the Progressive Democratic Party, also known as "58 Initiative", a new center-left movement formed by a group of professors, economists, businessmen and artists, PASOK spokesman Odysseas Konstantinopoulos said.
"There will be an alliance, there are efforts to form a big, democratic party for the EU elections," Konstantinopoulos said. "The country needs a new socialist force which will have a balancing role and contribute to the efforts for recovery."
The future of the moderate left has been a subject of speculation since PASOK suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2012 vote, taking just 12 percent of the vote. Since then the radical leftist Syriza and the far-right Golden Dawn parties have garnered more support in polls.
Six PASOK deputies have deserted the party to become independents since 2012 and one of its most popular politicians, Andreas Loverdos, rebelled to set up his own party.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; writing by Deepa Babington; editing by Andrew Roche)