Athens September 15, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Zacharias Petrou
During a televised debate on Monday night, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras ruled out forming a coalition government with New Democracy after the Sep 20 election.
In the debate, hosted by state broadcaster ERT, Tsipras argued that there is no doubt that immediately after the election, the country will have a government. But “it won’t be an abnormal government with Syriza and New Democracy in coalition”.
The leader of the conservative party, Vangelis Meimarakis, said Greeks wanted the stability that only a grand coalition between left-wing Syriza and center-right New Democracy could bring.
“We can have a national team not only in the governance of the country, but also a national negotiating team [for Greece’s bailout],” he said.
But Tsipras replied that the two had “fundamental differences” and so a unity government would not be possible.
“I honor Mr Meimarakis as a political opponent. But the problem is the party he represents and the system of vested interests New Democracy supports” the Syriza leader said.
The debate between the two leaders may prove critical in determining the final outcome of the election battle. With less than a week to go before the Sep 20 vote, Tsipras and Meimarakis had a chance to convince crucial undecided voters to vote for them. Opinion polls suggest that undecided voters stand between 8 – 14% of the electorate.
Last-minute changes to the rules of the debate made for a livelier affair than the previous debate involving all party leaders, as the two men were allowed to ask each other questions and comment on answers. However, it isn’t immediately clear that there was a winner at the end of the night.
Alexis Tsipras defended his record in government and portrayed himself as honest, combative and the only leader credible enough to fight corruption.
Meimarakis, on the other hand, attacked his opponent for ruining the economy and agreeing a terrible bailout to avoid full-scale catastrophe. He also appeared prepared to work with Syriza in order to implement the bailout measures with Greece’s international creditors.
According to the New Democracy leader, the Greek people want a “national team” to be formed not only in government but also for negotiations that lie ahead. “If elected I will be open to governing with people from Mr. Tsipras’s government too, or even of the caretaker government” Meimarakis stressed.