ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's radical leftist opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, accused Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Saturday of sowing fear in the country to win support for a presidential vote the government must win to avoid a snap election.
The government on Monday brought forward a vote in parliament to elect a president to this month, aiming to end political uncertainty that has hung over the country but risking having to call snap elections if the government does not secure enough votes for its candidate.
Tsipras's Syriza party, which wants to tear up Greece's EU/IMF bailout deal, is likely to win an election, polls show, and Samaras warned on Thursday that the country risked a "catastrophic" return to the depths of its debt crisis if his government fell.
"A frenzy of fear-mongering with the responsibility of the Prime Minister himself is a final spasm before the end," Tsipras said in a speech on the Greek island of Crete. "The countdown for the ruling coalition and its catastrophic policies has already started".
Syriza is promising to abandon any cooperation with Greece's EU/IMF lenders and reverse austerity cuts imposed as part of the country's multi-billion bailouts - spooking financial markets wary of Greece going off the path of fiscal rigor just as it puts its finances on track and returns to economic growth.
The European Union's chief executive, in an unusual move, on Thursday gave Greeks a stark warning of major problems if they vote the "wrong" way and Syriza were to win an early parliamentary election.
But Tsipras called the warning a "tale of fiction" ahead of possible elections and said Greece's EU partners would change their stance once a strong Syriza government took office.
"A strong government with a realistic reform plan is a precondition not to punish but to negotiate with Greece," he said, calling on Greeks to support Syriza.
Sticking to his policy program announced in September, Tsipras said Syriza would reverse public sector wage and pension cuts and boost employment through a plan which aims to create 300,000 jobs.
"This plan has a specified cost. It's about 12 billion euros in total," he said, adding that it would be financed by EU funds, reserves from the country's bank rescue fund and revenues from fighting tax evasion.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Susan Fenton)