Profile of Greek New Democracy party leader Vangelis Meimarakis

Profile of Greece’s New Democracy party leader Vangelis Meimarakis.

ATHENS, GREECE (FILE – JANUARY 17, 2013) (PARLIAMENT TV) – Vangelis Meimarakis, a 61-year-old veteran Greek politician and a former parliamentary speaker, initially kept a low profile after taking over the New Democracy party in July as an interim leader.

He was initially written off as no threat to former prime minister and Syriza party leader, AlexisTsipras.

But his campaign then picked up pace, as he matched Tsipras blow for blow in two televised debates last week and on Monday (September 14).

Pollsters said that Meimarakis’s no-nonsense style has made him a safer bet among Greeks wanting a return to stability after years of crisis, disillusioned with Tsipras for ultimately accepting the international bailout programme he promised to tear up.

Meimarakis had focused his election campaign on an offensive against the 41-year-old Tsipras and asked voters to consider the cost of the downward economic spiral under the leftist leader.

He has called Tsipras “kiddo” and “a little liar” and described the July 5 referendum the leftist leader called on bailout terms as “useless, irrelevant and divisive”.

A founding member of New Democracy’s youth wing in 1974, Meimarakis has been a lawmaker for more than two decades and also served as defence minister.

That links him, if only by association, with the corruption-tainted conservative governments of Greece’s recent past, including, an issue on which Tsipras, as a representative of the new generation, has scored highly with voters.

Tsipras passed the bailout through parliament in August thanks to the support of New Democracy and other pro-European bailout parties.

Both men have said they would not renegotiate the bailout if they he came to power but, unlike Tsipras, Meimarakis has no U-turn on his resume in that regard.

Meimarakis has acknowledged “difficult months ahead” and will need to oversee deep economic reforms required for the 86-billion-euro bailout brokered in August, a recapitalisation of the country’s banks, and the unwinding of capital controls imposed this year to prevent an implosion of the financial system.