Debt debate veers with Greek polls close

June 2, 2012 at 12:31 PM   |   Comments

ATHENS, Greece, June 2 (UPI) -- The final set of voter polls allowed in Greece before the next national election show a tight race between leftist Syriza and centralist New Democracy parties.

Although emerging a surprisingly strong contender in the May 6 election, which failed to establish a coalition government, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party, is beginning to sway the debate on international assistance in his direction, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The final set of credible polls in Greece, which are suspended by law within two weeks of an election, show the race essentially tied in two polls and the Syriza party ahead 32 percent to 26 percent in the third.

Tsipras has contended all along that he would toss out the international agreement concerning billions of dollars in bailout assistance that have come with tough mandates for austerity control of the Greek budgets.

Leaders of the New Democracy party and the Socialist Pasok party are now saying they would at least re-negotiate the terms of the deals.

A spokesman for the International Monetary Fund -- a third of the so-called troika, which includes the European Union and the European Central Bank -- said Thursday that the IMF was open to "any ideas" about fiscal targets the loans have established.

The loans mandate Greek abolish collective bargaining agreements and reduce the minimum monthly wage by 22 percent, two steps Tsipras said he would cancel.

He also said he would reduce the national sales tax "and start taxing the wealthy who evade tax."

Further, Tsipras would suspend repayment of international loans until Greece's economy, now in a prolonged recession, returned to growth.

"We don't claim that there is plenty of money. Greek people are not asking for money. They are asking for work and the ability to make a living," he said.

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