Parties up the ante in final leg

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the leader of main opposition PASOK George Papandreou yesterday launched impassioned speeches, and barbs against each other, on their respective campaign trails the weekend before European Parliament elections. Addressing a small but boisterous crowd in the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa, Karamanlis once again accused Papandreou of «irresponsibility» and «economic scaremongering,» while highlighting the completion of the last section of the Egnatia Highway as an example of his administration’s commitment to action, not words. «We put the needs of the country above all else – it is our obligation to Greece and to the Greek people,» Karamanlis said. Meanwhile in the central town of Volos, Papandreou told a crowd of supporters that he was committed to fighting vested interests and defending the rights of citizens. After a tour of local agricultural cultivations, Papandreou pledged to «review the rights of farmers, tackle injustices and introduce a system of absolute transparency.» The smaller parties pushed on with their campaigning too, exploiting the absence of fresh ideas from the two main parties. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Synaspismos, the main group in the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), also passed through Volos over the weekend in a bid to drum up support among disillusioned voters of the two main parties. Tsipras called on citizens who traditionally back ruling New Democracy and PASOK to transform their disenchantment into a «strong message against bipartisanism.»