The Guardian reports: The two main figures in what promises to be Greece’s most electric election in living memory were on a collision course on Thursday, with one predicting “hell” if Athens adheres to EU-mandated austerity and the other forecasting a “nightmare” if the nation abandons reforms and gives up the euro.
Emboldened by yet another poll showing his party’s wide appeal, the leftwing Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras, said the international accord that Greece had signed up to in return for rescue loans was catastrophic for the country. Instead of a rescue, the debt-stricken nation has been thrown into its worst recession since the second world war.
“With this policy [bailout agreement] we are going directly to hell,” he told CNN. “To save Europe we need to change direction,” insisted the politician who has pledged to “tear up” the €130bn (£104bn) “memorandum of understanding” that Athens reached with the EU and IMF earlier this year.
The 38-year-old, who has sent shockwaves through EU capitals with his fiery anti-austerity rhetoric, made the remarks as Syriza announced that he would be visiting Berlin and Paris next week for talks. It was unclear whom Tsipras would be meeting, although aides said the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, would not be among those lined up.
Within hours, the leading credit agency Fitch had downgraded Greece’s sovereign rating to CCC from B-, citing “the risk of a Greek exit from European Monetary Union … in the near term”.
Earlier in the day, Antonis Samaras, who heads the conservative New Democracy party, painted a very different picture in a speech that conjured images of a living hell if Athens quit the EU.
In the event of the debt-stricken country reneging on the pledges it had made, the road ahead would be a “nightmarish” one, he said.
Reversion to the drachma would mean wages, deposits and property values all being “cut in half”, and the price of imported commodities, such as food and fuel, skyrocketing, he predicted. “This is the nightmare that those who speak of a unilateral condemnation [of the loan agreement] will bring,” he told his parliamentary group at its last meeting before the 300-seat house is dissolved and the election campaign officially announced .
“The battle that begins the day after tomorrow for the new elections is not about any single party or its electoral influence,” said the 61-year-old politician, ashen-faced as he delivered the speech. “It’s about whether Greece will remain in Europe, a Europe which is itself changing. Or if Greece will be found to leave Europe, losing much and risking even more.” [Continue reading…]