Greek Prime Minister and leader of the conservative New Democracy party Antonis Samaras addresses supporters during an election rally
Antonis Samaras, Greek prime minister and leader of the conservative New Democracy party, addresses supporters during an election rallyReuters

As Greece prepares to vote in the general election on Sunday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaris of the conservative New Democracy party defended his policy of austerity measures as the "ship was sinking".

Samaris cautioned voters not to take the country to the "brink of catastrophe" in this weekend's important vote.

In the final hours of campaigning, the radical left group, Syriza, has extended its lead in the polls.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras says he wants to end the tough bailout conditions which he argues has locked the country into debt, unemployment and stagnation. The 40-year-old believes his party would restore "dignity" to Greece.

However, pro-conservatives say that the austerity policies have spurred the country to a primary budget surplus and a return to growth.

In 2010, Greece agreed to cuts in public spending and increasing taxes in return for two bailouts worth a total of £179bn.

However, youth unemployment is almost 60%, with general unemployment at more than 27%. The economy has shrunk by 25% since the start of the eurozone crisis.

If Tsipras wins, he has stated that he wants to stay within the euro. However, if he is too hardline, the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union could withdraw their support.

He hopes to work out a "mutually acceptable solution" with Greece's creditors by the time the country is eligible for support in July.

It's feared this could lead to a debt default and the so-called "Grexit", or departure from the single currency.

At a campaign rally on Thursday, Tsipras has said an end to "national humiliation" was near, repeating a promise to have half of Greece's international debt written off when the current bailout deal ends.

Many believe that Syriza is poised to win Sunday's parliamentary election.

"I'm a compromiser because I want to have realistic goals," Tsipras said in an interview with the Financial Times. "At the same time, I'm very decisive if I know it's necessary to have a fight."