Greece 'Will Exit Crisis, Not the Euro': Conservative Chief

June 15, 2012
Party leader says breaking with the EU would cut off imports to Greece.

Greece will overcome the crisis and stay in the euro, the head of the conservative New Democracy party Antonis Samaras vowed ahead of a general election Sunday critical for the country's economy.

"We will exit the crisis. We will not exit the euro. We will not let anyone take us out of Europe," Samaras, seen as a possible victor on Sunday, told thousands of cheering supporters in Athens' central Syntagma Square on Friday.

The country is readying for its second election in six weeks with all the top candidates now calling for various degrees of renegotiation of a bailout deal despite warnings that Greece must toe the line or leave the euro.

Samaras, 61, presents himself as the guarantor for Greece's membership in the eurozone although he says he wants to renegotiate the "memorandum" -- the bailout deal that has imposed harsh austerity conditions.

"If we break with our (EU) peers, they would force us to leave the euro, we would not be able to import anything, we would have to capitulate at much worse terms to secure our basic needs, it would be 10 times worse," Samaras said, capping his party campaign.

"Hellas (Greece), Hellas, Antonis Samaras," the party's boisterous youth wing chanted. The remainder of the crowd appeared over the age of 40.

"My husband strongly supports New Democracy," said Dora Kaldi, a 44-year-old Bulgarian woman married to a Greek pensioner who came to Greece 15 years ago.

"But I also do not want to live what I lived through in Bulgaria for a second time. We must keep the euro. I am afraid of communism," she told AFP.

The New Democracy conservatives and Syriza radical leftists have been running neck-and-neck in the polls for an election which was triggered by the inconclusive vote on May 6 in which no party managed to form a governing coalition.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has called for the deal with Greece's EU partners, the European Central Bank and the IMF to be torn up although he has moderated his message in recent days and is now also calling for renegotiation.

European leaders have said there is no chance of a renegotiation but officials privately say there is some wiggle room and a willingness to meet Greece's needs to relaunch its economy after five years of recession.

"I think Samaras will be able to renegotiate the memorandum. I don't think the Europeans will refuse him," said Vlassis, a 20-year-old theology student.

"In any case, they support him more than they do Tsipras," he argued.

In return for the cuts, Greece has been given an international credit lifeline -- first for 110 billion euros in May 2010 and then for 130 billion euros earlier this year, plus a 107-billion-euro private debt write-off.

Samaras has said he could lead a coalition of other centre-right parties and the Socialist Pasok party, which would broadly support the bailout deal.

"Never has the Greek people had such clear dilemmas," he said on Friday.

"The euro or the drachma... jobs or mass unemployment... security or fear?" Samaras said. "This battle is like no other."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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