ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's conservative leader vowed Thursday not to seek a coalition government with Socialist rivals, despite widespread expectations that general elections in the bailed-out country this weekend will produce a political deadlock.
Antonis Samaras, head of the center-right New Democracy party, told supporters at his main campaign rally in Athens that a partnership with the Socialist Pasok party would hurt the country.
"I do not want to form a government with Pasok. It is not in the interest of the Greek people to have a power-sharing government of this kind to exist. This would increase graft," Samaras said. "Weak governments are easier to blackmail and manipulate."
Samaras joined the majority Socialists in an interim coalition for the past six months, to push through vital bailout loan and debt restructuring deals, against growing public and political opposition to harsh austerity measures imposed in return for the rescue money.
New Democracy is leading opinion polls, but is facing a strong challenge from rightist splinter parties and the fascist Golden Dawn party that have campaigned heavily on illegal immigration in the crisis-hit country.
Surveys suggest New Democracy will not receive enough support to govern outright, and failure to form a government would force another general election.
The conservative leader, who turns 61 this month, could also face a backlash from the centrist wing of his party who have openly supported sharing power with the Socialists with they do not win enough seats to govern.
Samaras vowed to intensify a program to expel illegal immigrants.
"We are fighting for a comprehensive safety policy for Greek citizens and for the comprehensive expulsion of illegal immigrants from this country. They have become tyrants of our society," Samaras told hundreds of supporters, waving Greek flags and flares — ending a campaign kept modest by recession-related cutbacks.
Support, he said, for Golden Dawn was an insult to the memories who fought the Nazi occupiers in Greece during World War II.
"There are the supporters of the Nazis, who are running in these elections," Samaras said. "As a Greek, I cannot accept the Nazi flag in the Greek parliament. We must isolate them, or our ancestors, the thousands murdered during the occupation, will wonder whether they truly died for our freedom."
New Democracy and Pasok have alternated places in government for nearly four decades, typically receiving more than 80 percent of the vote between them.
But polls suggest half of that support for the two pro-bailout parties could be lost in Sunday's elections, after being forced to scale back campaigns and face fierce attacks from anti-bailout opponents.
Elena Becatoros contributed to this report.