Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis crossed swords on Friday in two separate speeches in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Addressing a SYRIZA rally in the northern city, the leftist premier lashed out at ND on a wide range of issues ranging from foreign policy to alleged scandals in the conservative party’s closet.
He also accused Mitsotakis of personally transforming the conservative party into a ”far-right sect” that is bent on restoring the influence of the elites and their vested interests.
The opposition conservatives, he said, are “political fraudsters who ravaged the country while posing as super patriots, hand in hand with the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn.”
“[New Democracy] threw the country into the turmoil of the memorandums and we liberated it,” Tsipras said, adding that his government restored the pride and dignity of the Greek people which had been shattered by previous governments.
By choosing Thessaloniki as the place to deliver his speech, Tsipras also sought to rally SYRIZA supporters in northern Greece, where the leftist party’s popularity has suffered due the Macedonia name deal, known as the Prespes agreement.
Referring to the deal, he sought to identify those opposed to it with the extreme-right, deriding them as “professional patriots.”
He also claimed that the Prespes agreement and the international alliances built under his government had raised Greece’s status from the margins of international developments to that of a leading power “in the Balkans and the Southeast Mediterranean.”
Meanwhile, launching ND's 12th conference at the at the Metropolitan Expo venue near Athens International Airport in eastern Attica, Mitsotakis sought to present the party as one of unity and reform, dismissing the leftist-led government as politically redundant.
“New Democracy was, is and will be the party of the many, of Greece and all Greeks,” Mitsotakis declared, adding that his party “unites Greeks and bridges the rifts that the crisis has provoked in Greek society."
While seeking to rally existing ND supporters, Mitsotakis also sought to extend his reach, appealing to the young, the unemployed and disappointed supporters of leftist SYRIZA. “We must convince them all that there is hope for a political proposal that can unite Greece again after a long period of division, decline and pessimism,” he said.
Upcoming elections would be a clash between two visions, he said, “the side of Europe, democracy and reforms, pitted against navel-gazing, paralysis and poverty.”
An ND-led government would link the minimum wage to the country’s growth rate, Mitsotakis said, adding that it would also offer a benefit of 2,000 euros for each child in a bid to tackle the country’s declining birth rate.
As for the contentious Prespes name deal, Mitsotakis repeated that the conservatives will “never” support it and condemned Tsipras “for saying ‘yes’ when six other prime ministers said ‘no,’ namely in the recognition of a Macedonian language and ethnicity.”