Bakoyannis returns to ND fold

The leader of conservative New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, and the head of the liberal Democratic Alliance, Dora Bakoyannis, a former conservative minister and political rival, on Monday announced that they were joining forces in ?a patriotic, pro-European front? aimed at ?battling the forces of populism? and ensuring that the country remains in the eurozone.

In a joint press conference, the one-time political foes declared that they would run in the June 17 general elections on a common platform with the chief aim of keeping Greece in the eurozone but also ?resisting and changing the course of things,? an apparent reference to the rising popularity of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which has called for the rejection of Greece?s debt deal with foreign creditors.

?Our aim is to extract the country from crisis but keep it in the eurozone,? Samaras said, adding, ?SYRIZA is heading in the opposite direction.? The alliance aims to renegotiate the terms of the country?s debt deal.

Bakoyannis, who unsuccessfully challenged Samaras for the leadership of ND in 2009 and was ejected from the party in 2010 when she voted for the country?s first debt deal, said it was time to break with the past. ?Let us focus on what unites us,? the former Athens mayor said.

She added that she would suspend the operation of Democratic Alliance to avoid endangering the chances of ND securing the 50-seat bonus in Parliament given to the party that comes first in the polls. The constitution dictates that a coalition is not eligible for the bonus.

A key axis of the agreement was that members of Democratic Alliance run on ND?s ticket. Bakoyannis herself is to head ND?s state list of candidates, sources said.

The announcement prompted an angry response from the leader of the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, who called Samaras ?a traitor? after two of his ex-MPs, Thanos Plevris and Giorgos Anatolakis, moved to ND?s camp. Three more ex-LAOS deputies were expected to jump ship today.

Another alliance in the making between two small liberal parties — Dimiourgia Xana (Recreate Greece) and Drasi — was pending on Monday after the leader of the former, advertiser Thanos Tzimeros, refused to embrace another small party, Liberal Alliance, led by gay rights campaigner Grigoris Valianatos. The head of Drasi, ex-minister Stefanos Manos, was reportedly surprised by Tzimeros?s veto of Valianatos?s party over fears it might alienate some of his own members.