ATHENS – After more than a week of a nearly-invisible campaign ahead of critical June 17 elections that could decide whether Greece leaves the Eurozone and possible chaos, dueling political rivals are taking shots at each other through press releases. There has been virtually no open appearances as political leaders are instead holding news conferences and preaching-to-the-choir members-only rallies and reverting to attacking each other.
Polls show that the New Democracy Conservatives are surging amid a scare campaign that a government of anti-austerity parties who want to renegotiate the austerity measures and terms of two bailouts of $325 billion from international lenders that have crippled Greeks could lead to the rescue loans stopping and even panic in the streets.
Alexis Tsipras, the head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA,) the surprise second-place finisher in stalemated May 6 elections is swinging back. He is locked in a neck-and-neck duel to win the next elections. He accused New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos of trying to frighten Greeks into voting for them with horror stories of a complete economic collapse and anarchy if Greeks support him and other anti-austerity parties that won 68 percent of the vote in the first elections. Tsipras accused “domestic political forces” of “blackmail, threats and lies,” and with scaremongering.
Samaras said SYRIZA’s intention to repudiate Greece’s loan agreement, or memorandum, with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) could lead the country out of the euro. “A return to the drachma would lead to incomes, savings and assets being halved, while debt would grow,” Samaras told party members at an ND national congress in Athens. “Tsipras will bring a worse memorandum that will serve the drachma lobby, which will be able to buy up the country on the cheap.”
Samaras said that Tsipras wants to return Greece to the drachma and push the country out of the Eurozone of the 17 countries using the euro as a currency. Samaras has avoided being in public, as has Venizelos. Samaras said that, “Tsipras will bring a worse memorandum that will serve the drachma lobby, which will be able to buy up the country on the cheap.”
Meanwhile, Venizelos – who served as Finance Minister in a shaky hybrid government with New Democracy during which he doubled income and property taxes, taxed the poor and imposed losses of 74 percent on private investors, including small bondholders in the Diaspora who put their savings into trying to help their homeland – said that an outright rejection of the loan terms would be “catastrophic,” although and Samaras both said they too want to renegotiate some of the terms. But reneging, he said, “would strengthen extremists, while making life easier for the drachma group, which is investing in the prospect of buying Greece up cheaply.”
Venizelos wants the Troika to give Greece an additional three years to adjust to reforms and to delay making an addition $15 billion in cuts. To Vima newspaper suggested that ex-Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, who headed the six-month coalition, warned party leaders that Greece will run out of money by June 20. Tsipras though noted that Charles Dallaras, head of the Institute of International Finance, has warned that the cost to Europe of Greece being pushed out of the Eurozone could surpass $1.25 and the Leftist leader has said he doesn’t believe the Troika would leave Greece to its own devices. “The domestic Taliban of the memorandum continue to terrorize the people so they abide by the plans of the IMF and (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel,” said Tsipras.
Samaras said he was confident of winning, although despite his party’s first-place finish on May 6 it gained just 18.8 percent of the vote, a showing analysts said repudiated him for his support of austerity measures.
“Unlike what happened on May 6, this time on June 17 the vote will not be loose. The crucial choice for the country’s future will predominate. And every citizen wants to see clearly what he will choose. Not just to send a message but in order to give the most crucial mandate, so that the country can be governed on the following day,” Samaras said. He added that he intends to restore low pensions and benefits for large families, while refusing further cuts to wages and pensions and without new taxes, although he supported all those demands and said he also intends to abide by the Troika’s insistence to cut wages and pensions and raise taxes without explaining the contradiction.
(Sources: Kathimerini, Athens News Agency)