The two parties vying for first place in the June 17 election, New Democracy and PASOK, were at loggerheads after negotiations to hold a televised debate between their respective leaders, Antonis Samaras and Alexis Tsipras, collapsed amid acrimony.

ND claimed it had agreed with SYRIZA almost all the details for a Samaras vs Tsipras debate but that the leftists scuppered the deal by issuing two statements outlining their positions on the discussions. SYRIZA said it wanted two debates: one between Samaras and Tsipras based on the format of the French presidential debate and another between the leaders of all the parties, apart from the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn).

“As soon as representatives of ND and SYRIZA shook hands on the TV debate between the two leaders, SYRIZA began messing everything up: journalists’ names, the process, even the inclusion of other parties, with the aim of blowing everything sky-high,” said conservative spokesman Yiannis Michelakis.

He accused Tsipras of being anxious about holding the debate as he would have to defend his party’s position in relation to “the drachma lobby, harboring terrorism, giving Greek identities to millions of migrants, leaving NATO.”

SYRIZA denied it had undermined a compromise and accused Samaras of dodging the debate. “After falling silent for days, New Democracy has decided to announce its premeditated decision not to hold a debate, afraid of exposure and the debate of positions in front of the Greek people,” the leftist party said in a statement.

SYRIZA said the details had not been agreed and that it still backs holding two debates.

ND stepped up its campaign to discredit SYRIZA’s positions with a TV spot showing schoolchildren asking their teacher about whether Greece is in the eurozone. ND’s Dora Bakoyannis accused Tsipras of intending to turn Greece into Bolivia. Conservative sources said ND would soon switch to a more positive campaign as the euro vs drachma dilemma has not helped boost support among voters aged 18 to 40, an age group SYRIZA dominated on May 6.

Tsipras is due to meet today with the ambassadors in Athens representing the G20 countries. He turned down a meeting with the ambassadors of the EU countries last week. SYRIZA sources said that as Samaras had already met with them, Tsipras did not want to be seen to be copying him. The SYRIZA leader met individually with some of the EU ambassadors last week.

Source: Kathimerini