Athens, Greek (BBN)– Rival camps in Greece are set to hold major rallies in Athens ahead of Sunday’s crucial referendum on an international bailout terms.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to be at one rally to support the “No” vote, opposing the terms, reports BBC.
EU leaders have warned that a “No” vote could see Greece leave the eurozone.
Greece’s economy is already being squeezed after the country lost access to fresh funds. Banks have been shut and limits imposed on cash withdrawals.
Greece has been in deadlock with its creditors for months but only called the referendum last week.
There has been no campaigning as such, the BBC’s Chris Morris reports from Athens – just a few chaotic days as supporters and opponents of the governing Syriza party have jostled for position.
Both sides are now racing to reach voters before time runs out, with “Yes” and “No” posters vying for space.
A poll published in Ethnos newspaper on Friday suggested a slender lead for the “Yes” vote, at 44.8%, with the “No” vote at 43.4%.
Despite the campaigning, however, there is still a chance the referendum may be suspended.
Greece’s top court, the Council of State, is due to rule on the legality of Sunday’s vote – whether it breaches the constitution.
Human rights body the Council of Europe has already said the referendum would “fall short of international standards” if held as planned, citing the short notice given to voters and the lack of clarity in the question to be put to voters.
There have already been protests in recent days, including a demonstration by some 6,000 Greek Communist Party supporters calling on voters to cast invalid ballots.
Mr Tsipras has said that a strong “No” vote will help lead to a “better agreement” with creditors.
“If the ‘Yes’ vote wins the banks will open with a deal, which will not be viable, but if that is the decision of the Greek people, either from fear or from pressure, or choice, we will respect it,” he said.
“If the ‘No’ vote wins, and the ‘no’ is stronger, I assure you, the very next day I will be in Brussels and a deal will be signed.”
But EU leaders have warned that a “No” vote on Sunday may see Greece leave the eurozone, something Mr Tsipras says he does not want to happen.
His opponents in Greece have said they believe he is making a mistake.
In a speech endorsing the “Yes” campaign on Thursday, former Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said the world would “consider a ‘No’ vote to be a withdrawal from the heart of Europe, the first step toward euro exit”.
The head of the eurozone group of finance ministers said Mr Tsipras’ stance on the referendum was “simply wrong”.
And European Parliament President Martin Schulz said his “faith in the willingness of the Greek government to negotiate has now reached rock bottom”.
Mr Tsipras was “unpredictable”, he told German media, accusing him of manipulating the people of Greece.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told the BBC he was confident that a deal would be reached very shortly after the referendum, allowing banks to reopen on Tuesday.
Some bank branches have reopened to allow pensioners a one-off weekly withdrawal of up to €120, resulting in long queues. Withdrawals from cash machines are capped at €60 a day.
The Syriza government was elected on an anti-austerity platform. Mr Varoufakis described the programme offered by creditors as “a travesty, a comedy of errors”.
The European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm – one of the “troika” of creditors along with the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank – wants Athens to raise taxes and slash welfare spending to meet its debt obligations.
The IMF on Thursday said that Greece would need €50bn ($55bn) over the next three years to stabilise its finances under the existing, disputed bailout plans.
The IMF reached its latest conclusions before talks between Greece and its creditors collapsed last weekend when the government called the referendum.
On Tuesday, the previous eurozone bailout expired, depriving Greece of access to billions of euros in funds, and Athens missed a €1.5bn repayment to the IMF.