Greek socialist leader Venizelos warns of 'mass poverty'

Evangelos Venizelos addresses his supporters during party's main campaign rally in front of the Greek Parliament, at Syntagma square in Athens Polls indicate Mr Venizelos' Pasok will be punished at the polls by voters angry at austerity measures

The leader of Greece's Pasok party Evangelos Venizelos has said Greece faces a choice between austerity and "mass poverty" in elections on Sunday.

"On Sunday, our people's fate is at stake," Mr Venizelos told the closing rally of his campaign in Athens.

The leader of the centre-right New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, said the Left was "playing games with the country's European future".

Both parties are set to lose votes to those opposed to austerity measures.

"Our place in Europe and the euro will be decided on Sunday," Mr Venizelos told supporters in Athens' central Syntagma Square.

Mr Venizelos served as finance minister until standing down in March to take over the leadership of the centre-left Pasok party.

He said Greeks should opt to stay "on a course that is difficult but safe, after having covered most of the distance, to finally emerge from the crisis.

"Or... we embark on an adventure, sliding back many decades and taking the country to default, to leave Greeks facing mass poverty," he went on.

Speaking at his own closing rally in the city of Alexandroupolis, New Democracy leader Mr Samaras said "the Left "wants to destroy everything... The Left feeds off the crisis."

Fringe parties to gain

New Democracy is expected to emerge from the poll as Greece's largest party, but with only around 22% of the vote.

Pasok, which has been governing in coalition with New Democracy since last November, has been in second place in opinion polls with around 18%.

Parties opposed to the austerity measures that the Pasok-New Democracy coalition have been imposing are expected to gain votes.

The ability of the new government to carry on with the austerity programme will be crucial for Greece's continued access to bailout funds from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - the so-called Troika.

Left-wing parties opposed to the terms of the bailout deal have collectively scored around 30% in opinion polls.

There are fears that the far-right Golden Dawn party could gain more than 5% of the vote and enter parliament for the first time.

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