By Nick Squires, Rome 07 Jan 2015
Alexis Tsipras, head of the party which could win Greece's important election this month, insists he is not a threat to Europe
Mr Tsipras’s, above, party is leading between three and six points in the polls as the vote later this month approaches. Photo: AP
The radical left-wing leader who has a strong chance of winning Greece’s crucial election this month has insisted his party is not “an ogre” or a threat to Europe.
Alexis Tsipras, the head of the Syriza party, has threatened to renege on part of Greece’s 240 billion euro debt to the international community, a move that would plunge Europe into a fresh crisis.
In an editorial published in Greek and translated into English and other languages, Mr Tsipras said: “Syriza is not an ogre, or a big threat to Europe, but the voice of reason. It's the alarm clock which will lift Europe from its lethargy and sleepwalking.”
He said that after a recession lasting six years, Greece was exhausted by “failed” austerity policies and that instead he wanted to promote economic growth.
“Greece is on the cusp of a historic change. Syriza is no longer just a hope for Greece and the Greek people. It is also an expectation of a change of course for the whole of Europe.”
A victory on January 25 for Syriza, which is a coalition of former communist and independent leftist groups, would “strengthen the forces of change.”
He blamed Greece’s critics, particularly conservative politicians in Germany, for scare-mongering about the risks of Greece reneging on its debt and leaving the euro.
“A small minority, centred on the conservative leadership of the German government and a part of the populist press, insists on rehashing old wives' tales and Grexit stories.”
He accused the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, of offering “no other programme except continuing with the failed MOU of austerity.”
Mr Tsipras promised, in contrast, to direct tax hikes only towards the rich, to re-launch the economy and to fight “unprecedented” rates of unemployment. He also pledged to tackle tax evasion and tax avoidance.
“But the Greek and European people have nothing to fear. Because Syriza does not want the collapse, but the rescue, of the euro.”
The party would renegotiate Greece’s debt to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and seek to bring in “repayment conditions which don't lead towards a country suffocating in recession and do not drive people to despair and poverty.”
Mr Tsipras’s party is leading between three and six points in the polls as the vote later this month approaches.
European leaders have urged Greece not to change course and abandon reforms, saying that such a move would herald disaster.
Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine reported last weekend that Chancellor Angela Merkel is prepared to let Greece leave the euro zone if Syriza wins the election and makes good on threats to renege on the country’s massive debts.
Bild, the best-selling daily, also reported this week that Berlin was working on contingency plans for a Greek exit from the euro should Mr Tsipras win.
The nightmare scenario could include a run on the banks if Greek savers try to withdraw their euro savings.
The European Union would then have to intervene with a bailout worth billions, the newspaper said.
The claims were denied by the German government on Wednesday.
Even if Syriza does win the election, a crisis could be averted by compromise between the new government and Greece’s lenders.
That could include an extension of the existing loan period in exchange for Mr Tsipras toning down his rhetoric and backing away from his threats to abandon austerity policies.