[ATHENS] Evangelos Meimarakis, leader of the opposition New Democracy party, said he'll invite his rival Alexis Tsipras to form a coalition to safeguard Greece's place in the euro area, no matter the outcome of this month's vote.
"I believe in consensus and cooperation," Mr Meimarakis, 61, said in a Bloomberg television interview on Sunday. "We have proven throughout these years that when it's for the good of the country, for safeguarding its place in the euro area, we're willing to cooperate."
Opinion polls over the weekend showed the third ballot in Greece this year is too close to call as Mr Tsipras' Syriza party is tied with New Democracy. No party is projected to gain enough votes for an outright parliamentary majority, signaling coalition talks may be needed.
The prospect of messy negotiations could further complicate the implementation of conditions set out for the third bailout to stave off the crisis and the recapitalisation of banks.
Mr Tsipras stepped down on Aug 20 just after relying on opposition votes to gain parliamentary backing of the country's third bailout.
His resignation was a bid to recoup a majority with snap elections as his party fell into disarray and dissidents formed a splinter group. Mr Tsipras last month said that his choice to opt for a compromise with creditors in the face of internal dissent was necessary to avert the "national disaster" of expulsion from the euro. Stocks have plunged since markets reopened in August.
Every poll over the past week has Syriza and New Democracy within the margin of error, including an MRB survey on Saturday in Parapolitika newspaper that gave New Democracy a 0.6 percentage point lead, and a Marc poll published the next day in To Ethnos daily that had Syriza ahead by 0.4 percentage point.
Mr Meimarakis said European leaders are wrong if they are betting that Mr Tsipras offers the best hope of keeping the region's common currency area together.
Government officials in Paris and Berlin last week said the Syriza leader has built up trust with President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel over months of late-night sessions as they worked on a deal to secure Greece's future in the euro.
"Even if Tsipras wins the election, which he will not, he will face similar internal dissent problems each time he brings a law implementing the bailout agreement," Mr Meimarakis said.
"The danger of Grexit hasn't passed, and if we end up in an unstable situation, this danger will become more imminent."
New Democracy would instead safeguard the implementation of the bailout agreement and pass needed reforms, Mr Meimarakis, who succeeded Antonis Samaras, said from his office on Syggrou Avenue, in Athens.
New Democracy, along with the Pasok and River parties, backed Mr Tsipras' 86 billion euros (S$136.7 billion) bailout deal, after about a quarter of Syriza's lawmakers staged a mutiny against its terms. The country has had seven prime ministers in the past six years.
"There was no need to hold snap elections and Mr Tsipras owes an explanation for putting the country into this adventure, and bringing uncertainty and instability during the most crucial moment in the implementation of the program," said Mr Meimarakis. "It's disastrous to hold elections every six months."
Mr Tsipras is Europe's "pampered kid" after he went "crying" to seek the bailout," Mr Meimarakis said. "It's one thing to be a good kid, and quite another to be a statesman." So strong is his belief in Europe that Mr Meimarakis said he would forgo any leaderships claims, even if he wins the elections, if that's seen as needed to form a credible coalition.
"Tsipras has called us assassins of society, traitors; he used derogatory expressions against us," Mr Meimarakis said. "Despite this, we backed him when we thought the country's European prospect was at stake."
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