Parties to boost leader profiles in final straight

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The camps of SYRIZA and conservative New Democracy on Tuesday ratcheted up their campaigning ahead of Sunday’s elections following a head-to-head televised debate between SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and ND chief Evangelos Meimarakis which appeared to underline their weaknesses rather than their potential strengths.

For both ND and SYRIZA, the last few days of campaigning before the polls are expected to focus on building their leaders’ profiles. Tsipras is seen as SYRIZA’s strong card, as reflected in the latest campaign advertisement, which calls on Greeks to “vote for the prime minister.” But in ND, too, cadres appear satisfied with Meimarakis’s straight-talking style, deeming that he came across as moderate but authoritative in Monday night’s debate.

In comments to Vima FM Tuesday, Meimarakis conceded that Greeks faced a difficult choice. “There might be better [candidates], but people must decide between Tsipras and me,” he said. In an interview with Mega TV later, Meimarakis said a coalition government was all but inevitable and expressed surprise that Tsipras refuses to cooperate with ND. “Tsipras keeps trying to find excuses,” he said. Meimarakis repeated that if ND comes first in Sunday’s elections, he will seek to work with SYRIZA. However, he called on Greeks not to vote for Tsipras again. “I say to citizens that there’s no second chance,” he said, adding that “90 billion euros is a lot for a protest vote,” referring to the approximate size of Greece’s third bailout.

Tsipras, for his part, called on Greeks to give him a new mandate, declaring that the choice was between “SYRIZA, which represents the many, and ND, which represents the few.” In a campaign speech in the central city of Larissa, Tsipras linked ND to “the corrupt political establishment” and called on Greeks to break with the past.

On Tuesday, SYRIZA unveiled its “parallel program” – a 130-page document with plans to boost growth and re-establish the social welfare system, among other actions.

Meimarakis is to give his last pre-election speech in Omonia Square Thursday and Tsipras in Syntagma Square on Friday.

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