Tsipras and Meimarakis clash over future of Greece
Ahead of election on Sunday, leaders of major parties have markedly different plans for the country's economy, migrants

Outgoing Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his main opponent, conservative New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis clashed in a heated debate over the country's future on television late Monday night.

Tsipras' left wing SYRIZA party is neck-and-neck in the polls with New Democracy: A poll conducted by Metron Analysis on behalf of private channel ANT1 on Monday, showed that 24.6 percent of participants would vote for SYRIZA and another 24.6 percent would choose New Democracy. Extreme right-nationalist Golden Dawn followed with 5.6 percent, the Communist Party of Greece was at 4.8 percent, centrist Potami had 4.6 percent, socialist Democratic Coalition (PASOK-DIMAR) took 4.2 percent, and the far-left Popular Unity and Union of Centrists received 3 percent each. The centrist Independent Greeks (ANEL) received 2.3 percent.

But 7.7 percent of voters were undecided and 1.4 percent of participants did not want to answer. Attracting these voters is critical for Tsipras and Meimarakis if they are to form a government after the election.

The leader of SYRIZA expressed his certainty that Greece will be governable the day after the elections, adding that a single-party majority is achievable, in the three-hour debate on public broadcaster ERT.

But he excluded a coalition with New Democracy. "We have radical differences on key issues."

"I will try to create the necessary broader consensus so there can be a government," he said.

"There will either be a progressive government or a conservative government," Tsipras said, stressing that there will be an opportunity to cooperate with the Independent Greeks.

Meimarakis said he was willing to form a coalition with SYRIZA. "Greek voters want parties to cooperate and to form a national team," he insisted.

But the two leaders clashed over how the economy should be led after the election.

For Tsipras, adapting the country's three-year, €86 billion ($95.5 billion) bailout plan is the key issue going forward. "I could say the deal we brought is a living organism," he said, and he named a series of "open issues" including debt reduction, privatizations, labor relations, and how to deal with non-performing bank loans.

"We will apply the deal, the section which we are obliged to apply, as fast as possible, and we will fight on major issues that remain open, for the benefit of the people," Tsipras said. "We will protect the weak," he added.

Tsipras stressed that his vision was vastly different from that of Meimarakis, supporting public-sector participation in privatization. He accused New Democracy's of being dependent on special interests.

Meimarakis slammed Tsipras' record on the economy, insisting that Tsipras had done "nothing for six months".

"The government of Tsipras sent the message that he doesn’t want businesses to come here," Meimarakis said. Meimarakis spoke about Tsipras' "ideological fanaticism" against the private sector and privatisations.

Commenting on Greece’s debt, he said that there already is a clause on debt restructuring in the deal signed by the country, "something which Mr. Tsipras doesn’t seem to know".

Regarding investments and employment, Meimarakis said his party is ready to unblock all major projects. "We’ll absorb EU funds, we’ll move ahead of major projects; we start work on Monday," he said.

Last Modified: 2015-09-15 09:47:17
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