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16/06/2012 | Europe - Greek election is euro versus drachma, Samaras says

BBC

Sunday's Greek election is a choice between staying in the euro and going back to the drachma, the leader of the centre-right New Democracy party has told a final campaign rally in Athens.

 

The general election, the second in six weeks, is seen as crucial to Greece's future in the eurozone.

New Democracy broadly accepts the EU/IMF bailout of debt-laden Greece but wants changes to the terms.

Main opponents Syriza reject the terms of the bailout but back the euro.

Syriza surged into second place on 6 May, in an election that produced an inconclusive result, with no party or coalition able to form a government.

Unofficial opinion polls suggest a fall in support for anti-bailout parties.

Under Greek election law, official opinion polls are banned in the two weeks before the election.

Tough austerity measures were attached to the two international bailouts awarded to Greece, an initial package worth 110bn euros (£89bn; $138bn) in 2010, then a follow-up last year worth 130bn euros.

While five of the seven main political groups reject the last bailout, only one - the Communists - wants the country to abandon the euro.

Germany, which has the eurozone's most powerful economy, insists Greece, like other member-states which have received international bailouts, must abide by the austerity conditions.

German Bundesbank (central bank) chief Jens Weidmann repeated the warning on Friday, adding that the eurozone could not allow any country to "blackmail" it with the threat of financial contagion.

Spanish example

Mr Samaras told his supporters on Friday that Greece would exit its financial crisis but not the euro.

"The first choice the Greek people must make is: euro versus drachma," he told the rally in front of parliament in Syntagma Square.

Mr Samaras has accused other parties of "playing poker" with Greece.

At Syriza's final rally on Thursday, leader Alexis Tsipras renewed his pledge to tear up the bailout conditions, which involve drastic spending cuts, tax rises, and labour market and pension reforms.

"The memorandum of bankruptcy will belong to the past on Monday," he told supporters in Omonoia Square.

"Brussels expect us, we are coming on Monday to negotiate over people's rights, to cancel the bailout."

Pointing to the huge bank loan package deal between the EU and Spain on Sunday, he argued that a bailout was possible without the kind of drastic cuts demanded of Greece.

"Spain negotiated and succeeded in taking financial support without a fiscal consolidation package, despite the lenders' threats and blackmail," Mr Tsipras said.

Interviewed by Spanish daily El Pais, Jens Weidmann called for the eurozone to impose broad conditions on Spain over its loan package, worth up to 100bn euros.

He warned that Greece, but also the Irish Republic and Portugal, had been given the impression that this was a "rescue with no conditionality outside the financial system" and this was "already eroding the commitment to the terms of the existing programmes".

"But foot-dragging on addressing the structural problems will perpetuate the crisis, and the market reaction reflects this concern," Germany's top banker said.


**Analysis

Chris Morris, BBC News, Athens

Alexis Tsipras has held his last campaign rally in Athens, warning speculators not to bet on Greece leaving the eurozone "because you will lose".

Mr Tsipras's party has enjoyed a surge in support, even though his opponents say his economic plans do not add up.

Sounding confident, he said the die had been cast and on Sunday "we turn the page". He vowed to keep Greece in the eurozone but renegotiate the tough terms of its bailout agreement. If Spain can have more lenient conditions, he asked, why can't we?

His Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) has risen to prominence on the back of anti-austerity protests. Mr Tsipras accused the main parties of the centre-left and centre-right of looting the country, and handing the national flag to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

BBC (Reino Unido)

 


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