Socialists: Greece faces default without euro
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's Socialist leader warned Friday that the crisis-hit country faces default and mass poverty if voters back anti-bailout parties in Sunday's general election.
Opinion polls suggest that Evangelos Venizelos' majority Socialist Pasok party will sustain heavy losses from voters who have suffered through more than two years of harsh austerity measures in the recession-hit country.
At his final election rally in Athens, Venizelos, the former finance minister, said Greeks face a choice between seeing through the painful measures and remaining in the 17-nation eurozone or experiencing a disastrous default.
Pro-bailout conservatives are leading opinion surveys but are unlikely to be able to form a government and have publicly ruled out joining Pasok in a coalition. The two parties have dominated Greek politics for decades. The Socialist government was ousted in November for a caretaker government to help the country get a second international bailout.
"People of Greece, everything is at stake on Sunday: The life, the safety, and the prospects of every Greek family and of the country as a whole," Venizelos told several thousand supporters waving Greek flags and green party banners in Athens' main Syntagma Square.
"Sunday will decided whether we remain in Europe and the euro, and we stay on a course that is difficult but safe, after having covered most of the distance, to finally emerge from the crisis and (austerity)," he said. "Or it will (determine) whether we embark on an adventure, sliding back many decades and taking the country to default, to leave Greeks facing mass poverty."
Venizelos, 55, served as finance minister for nine months before giving up the position in March to lead the Socialists to the elections. He argues that tough measures are vital to prevent financial collapse in the debt-crippled country that is being kept afloat by rescue loans from eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.
The traditionally dominant Socialists and conservatives could lose as much as half of their support, as angry voters flock to parties that oppose the harsh terms of rescue-loan agreements that have pushed a recession to a fifth year and the rate of unemployment to nearly 22 percent.
One of the parties poised to enter parliament is the fascist Golden Dawn, which has been blamed for a recent spike in violent attacks against immigrants in Athens neighborhoods.
The party, whose supporters dress in black and use Nazi-like salutes, has drawn as much as 5.2 percent of the vote according to opinion polls.
Venizelos joined an appeal made by conservatives and others, urging Golden Dawn supporters to reconsider.
"From here, two days before the elections, we shout out that out that society must not be tainted by fascism," he said. "We say no those who those who support neo-Nazism."