ND is ready to begin fightback, says Samaras

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras yesterday accused PASOK of giving away the keys to Greece, as he made his first speech as party president at the conservatives’ congress in Athens, ahead of announcing his policies for getting Greece out of the economic crisis. Samaras has seen his party slip in the opinion polls following its heavy general election defeat last October. But in his first opportunity to address more than 4,400 conservative delegates since taking charge of ND last November, he suggested his party is ready to go on the offensive. First, he attacked PASOK for its handling of the economic crisis and its decision to sign an emergency loan agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. «PASOK handed over the keys to the country by signing the [EU-IMF] memorandum, which leads to a never-ending cycle of recession and destruction,» he told his audience, 83 percent of which was men. «The memorandum is leading us to a dead end. We are searching for a way that Greece can get out of this agreement as soon as possible so we can implement a different mix of economic policy.» Samaras said that ND would set out its ideas for exiting the economic crisis on July 7. Having attacked PASOK, Samaras then trained his sights on ex-Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who he ousted from the party for supporting PASOK’s austerity measures, and the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), which ND sees as appealing to its most conservative voters. «Those who have adopted this policy, as if they were a wing of PASOK, claim that theirs was a vote of responsibility but the pension and labor market reforms were part of the memorandum – the did not know what they were voting for,» said Samaras. «Politics is not about easy smiles and cheap soundbites on television panels. Politics is an act of responsibility.» Six in 10 of the delegates at what was ND’s eighth congress were new members and Samaras sought to stir them by claiming that after a period of introspection, his party is ready to play an active role in Greek politics. «We are forming a modern party, not a loose association of feudal states. We are brining in new faces without casting aside old warriors. We are more united than ever,» said Samaras, who repeated his commitment to social liberalism. «Our political beliefs are not a beach umbrella that we can move more to the left or right to account for those who desert PASOK or any others,» he said.