PM Alexis Tsipras and main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis crossed swords over political violence and the economy during a parliamentary debate on the economy requested by centre-left Movement for Change leader Fofi Gennimata.

The debate was held straight on the heels of last weekend’s mob attack against Thessaloniki Mayor Yannis Boutaris and yesterday’s attack by Rouvikonas and other anarchist groups on the Council of State building in downtown Athens.

Crossfire over which party supports violence

Hence, Mitsotakis began his speech with charges that SYRIZA is coddling Rouvikonas and that it was involved in the huge riots of 2008, after a policeman shot dead a boy in Exarheia. He denounced Tsipras for linking New Democracy  to far-right extremist violence and to the attack on Boutaris, and declared that ND has never sanctioned any form of violence.

“I do not permit you, Mr. Tsipras, to suggest in any way that New Democracy has any link to violence. It was you [SYRIZA] who burned Athens in 2008.  You were coddling the indignados [anti-austerity protesters],” he declared.

Prelude to elections?

Many observers viewed the no-holds-barred confrontation essentially as a pre-electoral confrontation, as the leaders of the two largest parties ripped into each other’s record on the full range of policy issues, just three months before Greece is scheduled to exit its last bailout memorandum.

The debate began with a speech in which the PM touted the impending end of the last memorandum, and accused Mitsotakis of economic fear-mongering and efforts to undermine the country’s clean exit from the memorandum by pushing a precautionary credit line from lenders.

Tsipras attacked Mitsotakis personally, charging that he transformed the historic conservative party into a protest party that is undermining the prospects of the Greek economy by presenting a picture of disaster.

“Your stance, Mr. Mitsotakis, will be recorded in history, as you will be remembered as the political party leader who transformed an historic party into a protest party, a party of sterile protest, a party that speaks of disaster and constantly undermines the interests and capabilities of the Greek economy,” the PM said.

Gennimata demands elections, again

For her part, Gennimata repeatedly demanded immediate elections, before the formal end of the bailout programme in August.

She also maintained that the government has undertaken secret commitments towards creditors on post-bailout policies.

“The country needs an immediate political change, so as to get a government with a plan and the courage to implement a national policy. You cannot have a [bailout] exit with improvisations. Let us put an end to polarisation and the toxic political climate,” she said.

“I demand elections now, slightly before the exit from the memorandums, so as to transcend these impasses. One needs a leadership and government that is trustworthy and able to negotiate the next day from a new position and on a new basis. As much as you may reject elections, you will not avoid them,” Gennimata declared.

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