ATHENS – Holding wavering leads in polls, major rival New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he believes faltering Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras will call snap elections on May 26 to coincide with European Parliament polls and not wait until the government’s term ends in October.
That’s also the date for local and regional council elections in Greece with speculation that Tsipras may wait to see the results and hopes his campaign of handouts and rolling back austerity measures he imposed will regain favor with voters.
Two surveys in the last week gave New Democracy leads of 14.1 percent in one but only 5.5 percent in the other as the polls keep fluttering, although none show SYRIZA will win and that there’s a chance the Conservatives could get enough of the vote to not need a coalition.
“This will be the occasion to send a message to the government: can’t stand you anymore, go, we can do better, Greece deserves better,” Mitsotakis told supporters in the city of Kozani on Feb. 10, Kathimerini reported.
He said that if he wins he would start rolling back an avalanche of tax hikes Tsipras imposed on orders of the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) that put up a third bailout in 2015 for 86 billion euros ($97.22 billion) that came with austerity he said he would reject but then implemented.
Mitsotakis said he would cut taxes and social security contributions, cut the property tax by 30 percent, reduce corporate tax from 29 to 20 percent, and cut Value Added Tax (VAT) on restaurants from 24 to 13 percent.
In a bid to reverse plummeting birth rates that are putting a crushing strain on the social security system, Mitsotakis said his government would award families 2,000 euros ($2,261) for each birth and that each region would have a magnet school in which gifted children will enter through examinations.
Being in Macedonia, Mitsotakis used the chance to again assail Tsipras for a deal that changed the name of the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to North Macedonia, giving away the name of the ancient Greek province.
“Mr. Tsipras distanced himself from a consensus national policy towards our northern neighbor. He said ‘yes’ where six previous prime ministers had said ‘no’,” he said, also promising that he would fight for “vulnerable“ Macedonian products against mislabelling by the neighboring country.
Mitsotakis didn’t miss the chance to take shots at former defense minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who were Tsipras’ junior coalition partner before quitting in opposition to the FYROM deal.
“He was claiming in so many words to be a patriot. In reality, he gave Mr. Tsipras the pen to sign the deal,” Mitsotakis said of Kammenos.