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Tsipras refuses possible coalition

September 15, 2015

Greece's former PM Alexis Tsipras has said he will not form an "unnatural" grand coalition government with conservative rivals if he wins Sunday's election. Polls suggest that neither party will win an outright victory.

Griechenland - TV-Duell Tsipras gegen Meimarakis
Image: Reuters/M. Karagiannis

In a televised debate late Monday, Greece's left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras vowed to form a "progressive" coalition that would not include opposition leader Evangelos Meimarakis' center-right New Democracy party.

Tsipras and Meimarakis went into their second debate looking for an edge in the extremely tight race between Syriza and New Democracy parties.

While finances were the main topic of debate, the two main candidates for the Greek premiership questioned the EU's migration policy.

"Operations of a military nature cannot be carried out in Greece's case, you will hit innocent refugees, not smugglers... the boats come without smugglers," Tsipras said.

Tsipras called the snap election after reaching an agreement with eurozone countries for a massive third international bailout.

The harsh terms demanded by international lenders for the 86-billion-euro ($97 billion) rescue deal split Tsipras' radical left Syriza party, with a breakaway group toppling the government to run against him in Sunday's election.

Slim lead

The 41-year-old Tsipras, who stepped down as prime minister following the resuce deal, has clung to a slim lead in opinion polls but has suffered a sharp drop in his approval rating in recent weeks.

The conservatives argue that a grand coalition would see Greece emerge faster from economic crisis, while Tsipras maintains that his party's ascent will help end the dominance of a financial and political elite that sank the country into the debt crisis.

"After the election there will be a progressive government of national responsibility," said Tsipras during the three-hour debate with Meimarakis. "There will be a government but not an unnatural government."

Tsipras was first elected in January on a staunchly anti-bailout platform. But despite years of financial hardship for many Greeks, political support has grown for the bailout deal, with most mainstream parties now backing it.

But popular discontent has fractured the vote, and the number of parties elected to parliament on Sunday is likely to increase from seven to nine.

The extreme right Golden Dawn, which originally began as a neo-Nazi group, is vying for third place.

Monday's debate was broadcast live on seven state and private television channels, with Greeks tuning in to watch the exchange between the two main debates.

av/cmk (AP, AFP)