|Saturday, 16 June 2012 13:24|
Greece is preparing to vote in an election that could drastically alter the future course of the debt-ridden country and determine whether it quits the eurozone.
With last month\'s vote leading to a stalemate, Greeks head back to the polls 0on Sunday with another tight result predicted.
Opinion polls put the conservative New Democracy party slightly ahead of the far left coalition Syriza.
If Syriza wins and is able to form a governing coalition, chances rise that Greece may leave the eurozone because of the party\'s opposition to the 130 billion euro ($162 billion) bailout deal.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras says a return to the former currency, the drachma, would be a "nightmare".
He has pledged to support the bailout deal that is keeping Greece from bankruptcy.
Speaking at the last election rally in central Athens before Sunday\'s election, Mr Samara warned of increased unemployment and softened immigration laws if voters choose Syriza.
"We are going into an election to decide the future of Greece and of our children," Mr Samaras, 61, told the crowd of several thousand waving Greek and EU flags in the capital\'s central Syntagma square.
"The first choice the Greek people must make is: euro versus drachma.
"There are some outside Greece who want the country to be the black sheep and push it out of the euro. We will not please them."
In turn, Mr Tsipras has accused New Democracy of mounting a scare campaign to try and drive supporters back to the old parties.
Eurozone officials have hinted they might give a new Greek government some leeway on how it reaches debt targets set by the European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout package, but there would be no change to the targets themselves.
Greece\'s lenders say they will turn off the taps if the country rejects the bailout.
Mr Tsipras says Europe is bluffing - arguing it cannot afford to cut Greece loose and risk the contagion for the much larger economies of Spain and Italy.
"The memorandum of bankruptcy will belong to the past on Monday," he told supporters in the capital\'s Omonoia square.
"Today you made Omonoia the most beautiful square in Athens and you sent a message of victory inside and outside the country: Brussels expect us, we are coming on Monday to negotiate over people\'s rights, to cancel the bailout."
He rejects that forming a unity government in the coming poll reproduces the uncertain result of May\'s election.
Greeks say overwhelmingly that they do not want to leave the euro, but neither do they want the pension, job and wage cuts arising from the bailout which have helped condemn the country to five years of record-breaking recession.
Voices of hope
On the streets of Greece, there were some voices of hope as voters mull tomorrow\'s return to the polling booths.
"I\'m optimistic because I hope people will think as Greeks when they vote and not give in to anger," 61-year-old pensioner Anthi Zoitou said during Friday\'s rally.
"I voted for another party in the previous election, but will vote for New Democracy now," 32-year-old economist Antonis Kargas said.
"The dilemma facing Greece is whether it holds on to its European prospects."
The last published opinion polls put the conservative New Democracy party slightly ahead of the far left coalition, Syriza.
Polling booths will open early on Sunday in Greece with the first results expected 14 hours later.
Neither party is expected to win outright, and negotiations will follow to create a pro- or anti-bailout coalition government.
Courtesy: Radio Australia