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ND, SYRIZA exchange sharp accusations over Rhodope candidates; alleged Turkish interference

Featured ND, SYRIZA exchange sharp accusations over Rhodope candidates; alleged Turkish interference

A political “tug-of-war” between incumbent New Democracy (ND) and rival SYRIZA party over what the former calls “interference” by the Turkish consulate in Komotini – in the recent election in Rhodopi prefecture – compared to the latter’s insistence that ND is “vilifying” members of the Muslim minority, continued to heat up this week.

The tit-for-tat accusations come ahead of a second ballot on June 25, and after ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday directly accused his main rival, SYRIZA president Alexis Tsipras, of having been briefed before the May 21 election over efforts by Turkish diplomats to steer support among the Muslim minority members to two specific candidates on SYRIZA’s ballot for the specific prefecture in northeast Greece.

In an immediate reaction, Tsipras on Monday morning visited caretaker prime minister Ioannis Sarmas at the Maximos Mansion to express what he called the “intense concern over the way Mr. Mitsotakis has decided to use the sensitive issue of the Muslim minority in Thrace” in the campaign arena. Tsipras also claimed ND and several of its top cadres are “targeting and blackmailing” members of the Muslim minority, something that “could lead to national dangers”.

“In any case, it’s a practice that has Ankara rubbing its hands,” he added.

Shortly after Tsipras’ visit with the caretaker prime minister a ND spokesman reiterated that the latter had been duly and officially warned over the interference by the Turkish side before May 21, even by several of his own party’s cadres in the specific prefecture, “something he chose to ignore.”

“Does Mr. Tsipras deny that he had received material revealing messages about the involvement of the Turkish consulate?” was the question asked by ND spokesman Akis Skertsos. He also called on SYRIZA’s candidates in Rhodopi prefecture to take a clear position and declare that they represent the Muslim minority and not a “Turkish minority”.