Athens, September 10, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Zacharias Petrou
The issues of the economy and post-election coalitions dominated the televised debate held Wednesday between Greece’s seven political party leaders.
In a rather dull debate – the first after six years – which lasted more than three hours where meaningful, lively dialogue was restricted by the rules (determined by a committee consisting of the communication strategy chiefs of the political parties), analysts point out that there were no clear winners or losers. The party leaders made sure they avoided any mistakes and were mellow in their responses, chosing to side step any difficult questions.
Former PM Alexis Tsipras was apologetic and sought to send a message that he should be given a chance to govern the country over “the old establishment”. New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis appeared conciliatory and in favor of a grand coalition for the good of the country. He attacked Tsipras on his record in the economy and the way he handled negotiations with the troika.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras admitted that his coalition government wasn’t able to implement part of the pledges he had made before the last elections, but added that the battle to change things will continue.
“It’s clear we didn’t manage to implement part of our pledges, but the fight continues and we hope to succeed in the future,” Tsipras said.
The former PM added that people know how hard his government fought these past six months to defend the country’s rights in his negotiations with Greece’s lenders.
New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis urged Greeks to vote for his party saying it would give him the opportunity to complete the work that was left unfinished from the party’s last term.
“In January the country was doing much better; the special levy was reduced, the tax on oil was reduced, and social security contributions decreased … If we have had the full four-year term our work wouldn’t have been abruptly interrupted and we would have implemented the things we promised.”
He also noted that his party brought investments in the country while SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras “chased them away”.
Asked about the possibility of forming a coalition government with other parties after the elections, Meimarakis said New Democracy is seeking a government that would have a four-year term to complete its work and said that if people grant him the mandate to govern, he will try to form a coalition government.
Greece needs a government that will offer solutions to the country’s problems by reducing the party-state, Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis said.
Asked why he supported the new bailout he said that “there are no ideal solutions in politics”, adding “this doesn’t mean we don’t support the unemployed or the small and medium-sized businessmen.”
Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos pointed out that his party had to vote the new bailout to save Greece’s membership in the Eurozone but added that the party didn’t suffer losses because of this decision.
“The Independent Greeks are the only party that didn’t suffer losses from signing the deal, although it was a difficult choice. Otherwise, the country would exit from the European Union and the banks would have been destroyed” Kammenos said.
PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata said her party has the experience and knowledge to negotiate with Greece’s lenders and voters should give it a chance to be the catalyst in the upcoming elections.
“If there was a Golden Raspberry Award, it would be won by Tsipras who pushed the country towards the Grexit. Our differences are visible. We have the experience and knowledge to negotiate after SYRIZA’s 7-month negotiation,” she added.
Popular Unity (PU) leader Panagiotis Lafazanis defended his proposal to return to a national currency, saying it would strengthen production, exports and increase liquidity.
“It’s not the best thing to terrorize people. This issue has not been discussed at all in public and it’s the responsibility of the European status quo,” Lafazanis added and continued “The memorandum is the terror and the disaster. All memorandums are a disaster and there’s no good and bad, left and right, old or new.”
Communist Party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas differentiated his party’s stance towards the European Union to that of Popular Unity’s, arguing that the latter simply wants to exit the Eurozone leaving the monopolies in the hands of the EU.