Samaras fears drachma ‘nightmare’By George Georgiopoulos, Athens - Saturday, June 16, 2012
Conservative leader Antonis Samaras told Greeks they faced a stark choice between sticking with the euro or a "nightmare" return to the drachma in an election that threatens to send shockwaves through the single currency.
Addressing supporters before tomorrow’s pivotal vote, Samaras pledged again to renegotiate the punishing terms of the country’s international bailout to promote growth and jobs, but said that to "clash" with the country’s European partners would mean the end of Greece’s euro membership.
"We are going into an election to decide the future of Greece and of our children," Samaras, 61, told the crowd of thousands waving Greek and EU flags in the capital’s central Syntagma square. "The first choice the Greek people must make is: Euro versus drachma."
His New Democracy party is neck and neck with the radical leftist Syriza, whose youthful leader Alexis Tsipras is threatening to tear up the punishing terms of the €130bn bailout that is keeping Greece from bankruptcy. Neither party is expected to win outright, and negotiations will follow to create a pro- or anti-bailout coalition government.
Eurozone officials have hinted they might give a new Greek government some leeway on how it reaches debt targets set by the EU/IMF bailout, but there would be no change to the targets themselves.
Greece’s lenders say they will turn off the taps if the country rejects the bailout. Tsipras says Europe is bluffing — it cannot afford to cut Greece loose and risk the contagion for the much larger economies of Spain and Italy, he argues.
Greeks say overwhelmingly that they do not want to leave the euro, but neither do they want the pension, job and wage cuts arising from the bailout.
Tsipras has rejected forming a government of national unity, but Samaras said the country could not afford a third election.
"We cannot withstand it," he said. "We are in favour of renegotiating [the bailout] for jobs and to remain in the euro; this is what the Greek people want."
In a speech laced with anti-immigrant rhetoric, Samaras accused "some countries" of waiting for Greece to leave the euro. "There are some outside Greece who want the country to be the black sheep and push it out of the euro. We will not please them."