SYRIZA, ND begin all out battle

Samaras and Tsipras exchange harsh criticism about their parties, setting tone for June 17 elections

The tone for the June 17 elections was set Thursday when the leaders of New Democracy and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) spoke in particularly harsh terms about each other?s parties, suggesting that the next few weeks will see the conservatives and the leftists go all out in their battle for first place at the upcoming polls.

ND chief Antonis Samaras was the first to let fly at SYRIZA as he addressed his MPs before they were sworn in.

?SYRIZA is a motley collection of groups that range from anarchists to those who want to revive the hammer and sickle,? he said.

Samaras also accused SYRIZA?s leader, Alexis Tsipras, of intending to force Greece to leave the eurozone. ?They are trying to push us out of the euro,? he said. ?In the 10 days since the elections took place, they have shown their true faces.?

The conservative chief said that if Greece were to follow SYRIZA?s plan to repudiate the European Union-International Monetary Fund loan deal it would lead to the country?s lenders stopping their payments and a euro exit would be inevitable. He added that the drachma would be devalued by at least 50 percent and Greeks? incomes would also be halved, as would the value of their savings.

Samaras is close to securing the return of Dora Bakoyannis, the leader of Democratic Alliance, to ND. The liberal party gained 2.6 percent in the May 6 elections but Bakoyannis is likely to disband it and bring her candidates back to ND with her.

The conservatives? efforts to convince Stefanos Manos, the leader of another small liberal party, Drasi, to return to the fold appear to have failed. Manos Thursday dismissed as ?rubbish? rumors that he was in talks with PASOK. He is expected to announce a wider cooperation with non-political figures.

Tsipras responded to Samaras?s attack on the leftist party by accusing the ND leader of desperation. ?Mr Samaras is in the frontline of the last, desperate rearguard action by the old political world,? he said. Tsipras accused Bakoyannis of being the ?best representative of neoliberalism in our country.?

Tsipras insisted that if his party comes first on June 17 it can form a left-wing government. He accused other parties and the media of scaremongering to damage SYRIZA?s chances.