Tsipras, Meimarakis spar in TV de­bate

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Less than a week be­fore Greeks go to the sec­ond round of elec­tions this year, the two key play­ers in the race – SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy chief Evan­ge­los Meimarakis – went head-to-head in a live tele­vised de­bate on Mon­day, clash­ing on is­sues rang­ing from cor­rup­tion to the best way of se­cur­ing debt re­lief, ac­cord­ing to Kathimerini.

In a lively, and of­ten tense, de­bate that lasted sev­eral hours, Tsipras and Meimarakis sought to con­vince thou­sands of un­de­cided vot­ers that their party is more ca­pa­ble than the other to lead Greece’s next gov­ern­ment.

Ques­tioned about po­ten­tial al­liances, Tsipras in­sisted that he be­lieved SYRIZA would win an over­all ma­jor­ity but that he would oth­er­wise be pre­pared to form a “pro­gres­sive” coali­tion. He ruled out an “un­nat­u­ral” al­liance with ND, say­ing, “We have rad­i­cal dif­fer­ences on key is­sues.”

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

Meimarakis, for his part, struck a very dif­fer­ent tone, say­ing he wanted to reach agree­ment on com­mon pol­icy with Tsipras, with each party re­tain­ing its in­de­pen­dence. He pro­posed the cre­ation of a “na­tional ne­go­ti­at­ing team” to ham­mer out a plan for the coun­try’s fu­ture, not­ing that Greeks want to see co­op­er­a­tion.

If ND comes first, and se­cures the 50-seat bonus, Meimarakis said he would choose a cab­i­net with “the guts” to im­ple­ment the third mem­o­ran­dum.

The two lead­ers clashed over cor­rup­tion. Link­ing the con­ser­va­tives to a string of cor­rup­tion scan­dals, Tsipras noted that SYRIZA re­sumed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the La­garde list of tax evaders with Swiss ac­counts. Meimarakis sug­gested that there were po­lit­i­cal rea­sons for the re­sump­tion of the probe.

He re­buffed ac­cu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion, say­ing SYRIZA took no ac­tion to tackle cor­rup­tion de­spite its pledges to clash with oli­garchs.

There were also ve­he­ment ex­changes be­tween the lead­ers over their par­ties’ record while in power. Tsipras re­jected claims by Meimarakis that the SYRIZA-led coali­tion de­stroyed the econ­omy, dis­miss­ing the ND leader’s rea­son­ing as that of “a per­son who drinks three bot­tles of whisky and a shot, wakes up in hos­pi­tal the next day, and blames the shot.”

Meimarakis hit back at Tsipras, ac­cus­ing him of for­get­ful­ness and con­fu­sion. “He changed char­ac­ter the mo­ment he signed the mem­o­ran­dum,” Meimarakis said of the for­mer premier.

The is­sue of debt, and how to se­cure its light­en­ing, was another point of dis­pute, with Meimarakis crit­i­cis­ing SYRIZA for in­sist­ing that Greece’s debt is un­sus­tain­able when the sus­tain­abil­ity of debt is a pre­req­ui­site for cred­i­tors to lighten it.

The lead­ers sparred over the thorny is­sue of immigration too. Ac­cord­ing to Meimarakis, SYRIZA’s poli­cies en­cour­aged refugees to come to Greece. Tsipras in­sisted that the mi­gra­tion cri­sis is “com­plex” and con­demned Meimarakis for us­ing the term “illegal im­mi­grants” when many of those ar­riv­ing on Greece’s is­lands are refugees flee­ing war.

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