Final pleas ahead of crucial Greece election

Campaigning comes to an end before Sunday's general election as politicians warn country faces expulsion from euro.

    Electoral officials are preparing polling stations for Greece's crucial election this weekend, which could result in the country being forced out of Europe's single currency.

    Sunday's general election cannot come soon enough, Panagiotis Pikrammenos, the outgoing caretaker prime minister said on Friday, the final day of campaigning, as he warned of a "dangerous inertia" in state operations and "critical" decisions lying ahead.

    Elections last month produced a stalemate, with no party achieving a parliamentary majority or able to form a coalition. Greeks vote again on Sunday to try to break the deadlock.

    Pollsters say the vote is too close to call. The last published surveys showed the conservative New Democracy party, which backs a 130bn euro bailout, running neck-and-neck with the leftist Syriza, which wants to cancel the rescue deal.

    Greece's other main party, the socialist Pasok party, is running third.

    Pikrammenos's office said the prime minister had told his administration's closing cabinet meeting on Friday: "There is dangerous inertia in critical state areas such as tax collection.

    "There are critical issues pending that require political decisions in the coming weeks."

    The finance ministry has reportedly said that Greece only has money left to pay salaries and pensions until late July, and state revenue is officially 666m euros ($836m) short of a target 18.8bn euros ($23.6bn) for the first five months of the year.

    Formerly head of Greece's top administrative court, Pikrammenos and a team of fellow technocrats took over in May to prepare the country for fresh elections after an inconclusive ballot failed to produce a workable majority on May 6.

    Final campaign rallies

    Greek politicians meanwhile made their final attempts to sway voters this week.

    New Democracy held its final campaign rally on Friday, with leader Antonis Samaras saying Greece faces a stark choice between sticking with the euro or returning to the drachma in Sunday's knife-edge election.

    "We are going into an election to decide the future of Greece and of our children ... The first choice the Greek people must make is: euro versus drachma," he said.

    "We will exit the crisis. We will not exit the euro. We will not let anyone to take us out of Europe," Samaras said.

    He is trying to to persuade Greeks that the only way to prevent economic collapse is to stay in the euro.

    Meanwhile Syriza, in its final rally on Thursday, promised to rip up the conditions attached to the bailout agreement.

    "On Monday, the bailout will be history. Monday will be a new era of growth, social, solidarity. Together, we will begin to change the country," said Alex Tsipras, the leader of Syriza.

    Voters appear determined to punish both New Democracy and Pasok, the two parties which have dominated Greek politics for decades, and who many people consider responsible for the country's current economic woes.

    Coalition promised

    All parties have assured the public a coalition government would be formed, either by the conservatives or the leftists, on June 18.

    The kingmaker who is expected to tip the balance for either side is expected to be the smaller Democratic Left, a moderate party which could co-operate with either New Democracy or Syriza.

    If Syriza wins the election and manages to form a coalition it raises the possibility that lenders will cut off Greece's financial lifeline and it will have to leave the eurozone.

    With the country's coffers empty, Greece relies on European Union and IMF loan funds to stay afloat.

    Polling stations will be open on Sunday from 7am local time (0400:GMT) and closing at 7pm (1600:GMT).

    A first indication of the result is expected from 9pm (1800:GMT).

    About 9.9 million Greeks over 18 are eligible to vote, out of a population of 11 million.

    Half of the voters are aged between 18-29 or over 66. Greece is divided into 56 local constituencies and the number of deputies elected in each constituency depends on the region's population.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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