Greece's political parties have ended their campaigning for Sunday's parliamentary election re-run. Athens' stock exchange rose nearly two percent on hopes that a pro-bailout government will emerge.
Greek law forbids pollsters from publishing opinion surveys two weeks before the vote, but polls released prior to the ban pointed to a head-to-head race between the pro-bailout New Democracy conservatives and the radical left-wing SYRIZA party.
Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, addressing a Friday evening rally in Athens, reaffirmed support for the long-pending international 130-billion-euro ($164 billion) bailout. But Samaras went on to say that he would seek to "renegotiate the memorandum," referring to the bailout deal.
"The first choice the Greek people must make is: euro versus drachma," said Samaras. "A return to the drachma would take Greece 50 years back."
Rival SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, speaking at an early rally, warned speculators not to bet on Greece's euro exit.
"The memorandum of bankruptcy will belong to the past on Monday," Tsipras said, promising to rip up austerity conditions attached to the bailout while keeping Greece inside the eurozone, should he be elected.
Sunday's re-run comes in the wake of the inconclusive May 6 parliamentary elections. No party was able to form a coalition after that vote, leaving Greece under the stewardship of a caretaker government led by interim premier Panagiotis Pikramenos.
Voters had punished the then-mainstream parties, New Democracy and the socialist PASOK, and turned to more radical parties in anger over salary cuts and tax hikes.
Most bets on Samaras' party
Betting firms such as Betfair and Ladbrokes say that while the electoral race is close, Samaras' New Democracy is the favorite to win.
Bets are on Samaras and his New Democracy party
Betfair said 72 percent of punters' money was placed on New Democracy. Likewise, the Dublin-based bookmakers Paddy Power said "there was a lot of betting supporting New Democracy to be the biggest party."
Pollsters say an unusual number of Greek voters are still wavering. Other factors such as a hot weather exodus to the beaches and the Euro 2012 soccer championship could sway voter turnout. Greece plays Russia late on Saturday in Poland.
Pollsters say if younger voters drawn by SYRIZA's youthful 37-year-old Tsipras stay away from ballot stations, then that will benefit Samaras' conservatives.
ipj/slk (Reuters, dpa, AFP)