Firebrand Greek leftist Alexis Tsipras says the nation is headed for hell if it sticks with austerity measures in exchange for aid, and the outgoing centrist caretaker president says the country will live in a nightmare if Tsipras gets his way.
With such cheery rhetoric, Greece is headed for June 17 elections thanks to repeated breakdowns among the country's political parties to form a coalition government.
Tsipras, head of the leftist Syriza party, has opposed tough austerity measures such as layoffs and spending cuts demanded on the country by its eurozone neighbors and the International Monetary Fund.
Greece agreed to politically unpopular austerity measures in exchange for the euro equivalent of over $170 billion in bailout assistance.
Meanwhile outgoing caretaker president Antonis Samaras says the country must stay the course and better days will return, otherwise calls for growth from the left, thinly veiled code to ramp up spending and abandon austerity, will lead the country on a downward spiral.
"With this policy [bailout agreement] we are going directly to hell," Tsipras tells CNN.
"To save Europe we need to change direction."
Samaras, who heads the conservative New Democracy party, says abandoning austerity means getting kicked out of the euro, which would send the cost of imports surging and stifle the economy.
"This is the nightmare that those who speak of a unilateral condemnation [of the loan agreement] will bring," Samaras tells his parliamentary group, according to The Guardian.
"The battle that begins the day after tomorrow for the new elections is not about any single party or its electoral influence," Samaras says.
"It's about whether Greece will remain in Europe, a Europe which is itself changing. Or if Greece will be found to leave Europe, losing much and risking even more."
Some respected economists say Greece can avoid painful austerity, which has led to street protests, by leaving the eurozone but in a controlled and prolonged manner coordinated with its neighbors.
"Postponing the exit after the June election with a new government committed to a variant of the same failed policies (recessionary austerity and structural reforms) will not restore growth and competitiveness. Greece is stuck in a vicious cycle of insolvency, lost competitiveness, external deficits, and ever-deepening depression," New York University economist Nouriel Roubini writes in a Project Syndicate column.
"The only way to stop it is to begin an orderly default and exit, coordinated and financed by the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund (the 'Troika'), that minimizes collateral damage to Greece and the rest of the eurozone."
Fitch Ratings, meanwhile, says elections that fail to produce enough leaders in parliament in favor of sticking with austerity will serve as a tipping point for Greece leaving the currency zone.
"In the event that the new general elections scheduled for 17 June fail to produce a government with a mandate to continue with the EU-IMF program of fiscal austerity and structural reform, an exit of Greece from EMU would be probable," the rating agency says, according to the AFP newswire.
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