Free-Falling Tsipras Eyes Snap Elections to Prevent Rout

FILE - Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during his opening speech at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, FEB. 20, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Tatiana Bollari)

ATHENS – Unable to claw his way back up in polls after reneging on anti-austerity promises for more than four years, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is reportedly contemplating – again – call snap polls to coincide with May 26 elections for the European Parliament and Greek municipalities.

Despite a rampage of handouts and accusing rivals of corruption and scandals, he’s been unable to keep the party he unseated in 2015, the major opposition New Democracy, of  maintaining leads as high as 14 percent in polls that the Premier said he didn’t believe.

He had said that he would run out his term until elections are required to be held, which must be done by October, but Kathimerini said Tsipras now may be leaning toward early elections to keep New Democracy from running away with a big victory allowing the Conservatives to rule outright.

Tsipras and his SYRIZA cohorts have tried a range of tactics to get back into the game, including charging that 10 rival politicians all took bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis without a shred of evidence being produced and the three whistleblowers who brought the claims said to be changing the stories.

Tsipras raised the minimum wage, four years after he said he would do it and only half of what he said, and got the approval of the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM), which put up a third bailout in 2015 for 86 billion euros ($96.61 billion) to cancel more scheduled pension cuts.

But nothing seems to be working for him with Greeks bashed with an avalanche of tax hikes, new taxes, and the government having agreed to next year tax previously exempt lower-income families and individuals.

Tsipras also has failed to go after tax cheats, the rich and oligarchs he promised to crush and seen one of his key aides, Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas, tied to a brewing scandal involving a disgraced banker and businessman’s attempt to get out of paying a 120-million euro ($134.8 million) in electric bills for a company he’s allowed to run while facing embezzlement charges.

Now the government, to the consternation of the Troika, wants to let state debtors have up to 10 years to repay what they owe, which analysts said could give him a bump up but not enough to make a difference to catch New Democracy, which the influential magazine The Economist said is on a path to whip SYRIZA.

Tsipras also is reeling after ramming through Parliament a deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to North Macedonia, giving away the name of an ancient Greek province in an agreement opposed by two-thirds of Greeks and drawing fury in the country’s second-largest city and voting bloc of Thessaloniki, seat of the province.

The agreement also allows citizens of North Macedonia to call themselves Macedonians and have a Macedonian language, culture and identity and doesn’t protect name brands of products in the real Macedonia and North Macedonian companies call their goods as Macedonian too.

After having vowed “not one home in the hands of banks,” Tsipras is allowing home foreclosures and watered down protection for those who can’t pay their mortgages because of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.

That was done to also appease the Troika and the Eurozone and to get release of nearly one billion euros ($1.12 billion) euros in profits held by creditor banks as part of a debt relief deal giving the government decades to pay off 326 billion euros ($366.18 billion) in three bailouts that hasn’t stopped Greece’s soaring debt from continuing to rise, by the second.

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