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Tsipras and Samaras Debating Over the Debate Ends the Debate

ATHENS – After tossing barbs at each other from afar, through press releases and using go-betweens, it looks like a much-anticipated debate set for June 11 between Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras and New Democracy Conservative head Antonis Samaras may not happen because both sides are disagreeing over how it should be conducted, a breakdown that continues their bitter feuding over the country’s future.
The fast-looming June 17 elections that could determine whether Greece leaves the Eurozone have turned into a neck-and-neck race between the two parties and they have been challenging each other to a debate instead of continuing a campaign in which their parties hold members-only rallies and preach to the chorus of the already-converted.
Tsipras, whose party is rising on the back of his repeated mantra that austerity measures haven’t worked and that he would immediately cancel a deal with international lenders, and Samaras, whose once-dominant party has hit new lows, can’t agree on minor details of the debate, media reports said.
New Democracy issued a statement blaming the Leftists for the collapse in the negotiations and accusing SYRIZA of wavering over picayune points, such as the moderator. “It is now clear that SYRIZA does not want any debate to take place,” New Democracy spokesman Yiannis Michelakis stated. He claimed that all the parameters of the debate, including the moderator, had been agreed but SYRIZA then had second thoughts. Presenter Nikos Chatzinikolaou had been lined up to moderate the debate, according to ND. “As soon as representatives of ND and SYRIZA shook hands on the TV debate between the two leaders, SYRIZA began messing everything up: journalists’ names, the process, even the inclusion of other parties, with the aim of blowing everything sky high,” said Michelakis. ProtoThema reported SYRIZA wanted TV presenter Elli Stai included.
Michelakis concluded with a political attack against SYRIZA: “We understand Mr. Tsipras’ anxiety to explain his positions and his support for the drachma lobby, for terrorism, the legalization of millions of illegal immigrants, our exit from NATO, the marches of his Youth in Skopje in order to give them the name of ‘Macedonia,’ and the persistent advocacy in favor of illegal trade, hooded troublemakers and destroying the centers of Greek cities.”
SYRIZA issued a barbed statement in response that, “There had been no agreement between the two parties since ND repeatedly looked for excuses and hid by postponing contacts between representatives of the parties, while it falsely leaked that an agreement had been decided upon…Mr. Samaras is afraid.” It added that, “We wanted to publicize this proposal for two debates so as to pressure ND, which pointed towards the path of continuous postponements of the TV debate, wanting to use it as a communication firework.
SYRIZA had proposed two debates: one between Samaras and Tsipras along the lines of the French Presidential debate and the other between the leaders of all the parties that entered Parliament, except for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn that no one wants to talk with, while PASOK’s new leader, Evangelos Venizelos, whose party finished third in stalemated May 6 elections that failed to produce a government and is falling fast, has been marginalized and excluded from the one-on-one debate although he is largely said to be the best orator among Greek politicians.
Michelakis accused Tsipras of being “anxious” about having to defend his positions in a TV debate on a range of issues from SYRIZA’s opposition to the two bailouts from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) and other issues, including foreign policy. ND would expose “SYRIZA’s dangerous policies for the euro, jobs, security and Greeks’ dignity,” said Michelakis.
Tsipras has denied that rejection of the memorandum entailed a euro exit as the pro-bailout PASOK and New Democracy have suggested. “For us, existing the euro is not an option. And it is not an option for anyone in the Eurozone. They should stop the fear-mongering,” he said. “The fact that PASOK and ND rejected any form of negotiation to stay in power does not mean there are no alternatives,” he said earlier.
(Sources: Kathimerini, ProtoThema)

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