ATHENS – Unable to shake criticism for his government’s failures in responding to July 23 wildfires that killed 94 people, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras reportedly wants to shift attention toward the Aug. 20 end of eight years of bailouts and his claim he’s bringing an economic recovery.
Tsipras set up a new national emergency agency, fired the police and fire chiefs of Athens, accepted resignations of other officials and said he took “political responsibility” but no blame for the response to the fires despite reports showing there were no evacuation or disaster or rescue plans and chaos in emergency services.
Before the tragedy his coalition government, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) planned celebrations to mark the end of 326 billion euros ($371.47 billion) of three rescue packages from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and the Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The disaster has canceled plans to have a big bash and as Tsipras said he’s responsible for a coming recovery without saying, if so, it’s largely because he reneged on anti-austerity promises, imposed an avalanche of tax hikes, new taxes, slashed pensions and is pushing the sale of state enterprises he vowed to cease.
The country just received the last installment from the bailouts, this one for 15 billion euros ($17.09 billion) and has set aside 9.5 billion euros ($10.83 billion) as a cash buffer because rising yields on 10-year bonds has made returning to the markets immediately prohibitive.
The major rival New Democracy said the government is trying to divert attention from the fire by using fake news to smear its party members and the right-leaning Eleftheros Typos newspaper said the government told SYRIZA loyalists to claimed that the government had issued directives to SYRIZA sympathizers to troll New Democracy Vice President Adonis Georgiadis with inflammatory social media messages to sow discord.
Nikos Karanikas, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Tsipras being paid 2,000 euros ($2279) a month despite having no real qualifications nor stated duties, said in a Facebook post that New Democracy members were tied to drug peddling and tax evaders without offering any evidence.
He has been a provocative problem for Tsipras, making obscene outbursts in the government and who had been cleared of desertion in failing to fulfill his military obligations after a court agreed with his claim he was a conscientious objector.
Karanaikas last year told a businesswoman who criticized Tsipras to “f…. off” without being reprimanded by the Premier.