NEWS

Venizelos asks voters to choose stability, euro

In his last appearance ahead of Sunday?s elections, socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos appealed to supporters to back his party to safeguard the country?s solvency as well as its future in the eurozone.

Addressing a crowd of around 3,000 supporters amid tight security — a very small turnout compared to previous Socialist rallies — Venizelos said voters should not walk away from the party despite any misgivings about the impact of austerity measures on their daily lives.

?Despite their reservations and their hesitations, we expect their vote on Sunday as it will keep the country on its feet,? Venizelos said.

The Socialist leader and former finance minister claimed that only a government with PASOK at the helm could guarantee stability. ?Which government can pay salaries and pensions?? he asked.

In a dig at conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras?s insistence on governing alone, Venizelos said he would not cooperate unconditionally with other parties. ?PASOK will not become anyone?s lackey,? he said. ?I will not take lessons in negotiation from a man who hid behind me,? he said, an apparent reference to the reluctance of Samaras to negotiate with foreign creditors.

The Socialist leader appeared to cast himself as the only one capable of helping Greece overcome its woes.

?The crisis is a war. We need a general with the ability to win battles,? he said.

Venizelos stressed that the country?s fate in the eurozone was at stake. ?On Sunday it will be decided whether we stay in Europe and in the eurozone or whether we condemn the country to bankruptcy and its people to massive poverty,? he said.

He repeated his party?s plan for easing the fiscal adjustment demanded by foreign creditors, pledging to spread spending cuts over three years rather than two, a plan he insisted was more realistic than ND?s pledge to cut taxes and restore low-level pensions.

Representatives of Greece?s foreign creditors are to return to Athens in June for talks with the new government on some 11 billion euros in extra cuts for the next two years.

Venizelos lashed out at a crop of smaller anti-bailout parties, on the left and right, for suggesting an exit from Greece?s debt deal, accusing them of offering ?false promises.? He also condemned the rise of the extreme right, declaring, ?We say no to Nazi sympathizers and nostalgists for the junta in Parliament,? referring to Greece?s military dictatorship.