His rivals and critics say that Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader, who plummeted in polls after four years of repeated reneging on anti-austerity promises, is whistling through the graveyard, thinking he’s going to win re-election this year.
He’s far behind the major opposition New Democracy -the party he unseated in 2015 and beat a second time that year in snap elections he called after reneging on referendum he called in which Greeks said they wanted him to defy the country’s creditors.
While he said the polls are wrong – but as he’s frantically trying to woo center-left parties to give him a coalition to win votes – he’s not going to make it, said The Economist, a British weekly magazine format newspaper that concentrates on economic and political issues.
“For a man facing imminent electoral extinction Alexis Tsipras, the 44-year-old prime minister of Greece, seems as untroubled as Socrates preparing to drink his hemlock,” the site noted about is downfall and disbelief Greeks wouldn’t want him back despite his reneging and a deal he pushed through to give away the name of an ancient Greek province for the newly-dubbed North Macedonia, opposed by two-thirds in surveys.
Twelve surveys this year have all shown New Democracy, now under Kyriakos Mitsotakis – whose father, the late Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis, first agree to let the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991 to call itself The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – with big leads, up to 14.1 percent.
Tsipras doesn’t believe it. . “They have a bad record,” he said of surveys he doesn’t like although even those in sympathetic media show him losing. “At the time of the referendum )on a third bail-out, which he opposed)_they predicted a close result. In fact, we won 61.3%.” He didn’t mention he took the bailout and left a legion of the disenchanted.
“That is true, but if Mr Tsipras really thinks he is in with a shot, he is alone among observers,” the site noted as elections must be held by October and chances of him winning – unless Greeks do a miraculous turnaround as he’s been on a rampage of handouts and trying to wiggle out of the austerity to which he agreed – are as remote as a Syrian refugee one day becoming Prime Minister.
The site said he seemed, in an interview, “more like a man focused on his legacy than on the future. It is, to be fair, not a bad one,” although no one outside of SYRIZA seems to believe that either, apart from some in the international community who nominated him and North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev for the Nobel Peace Prize for the name deal.
Still, it’s been a rough road for Tsipras and SYRIZA as he rolled back promises to end big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings and found him in 2015 – six months after toppling New Democracy – seeking and accepting that third bailout.
FLIP FLOP FLIM FLAM
Then, in what Greeks call a kolotoumba (a somersault) he did a 180-degree turn on his anti-austerity vows and imposed even more in their cost to Greeks than had a previous ruling coalition led by New Democracy and the now-defunct PASOK Socialists, who went bust after backing the brutal measures antithetical to their alleged principles.
SYRIZA’s election shocked the European Union as Tsipras vowed to bring the lenders to their knees and begin a Leftist revolution through the bloc before he found himself surrendering after the European Central Bank (ECB), one of the lenders, threatening to shut off liquidity, forcing him to close banks for three weeks, impose capital controls still in effect and eat 86 billion euros ($97.35 billion) in crow, the amount of the third bailout.
“Since the referendum, though, M. Tsipras has performed the most remarkable volte-face in recent European history,” said The Economist, including pushing out his former finance chief Yanis Varoufakis who defied the Troika of the European Union-ECB-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and accused Tsiras of betraying voters by conceding to it.
That capitulation has, ironically, brought Greece to a kind of looming recovery although it’s been built partially by the government building a dubious primary surplus that doesn’t include interest on the three bailouts since 2010 of 326 billion euros ($369.02 billion.)
Nor the cost of running cities and towns, state enterprises, social security or some military expenditures and withholding payments to those owed money by the state, terms that would make anybody whole if they didn’t pay any bills or debt.
Growth, after the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank 25 percent during the crisis, has been set at a disputed 1.9 percent for this year and while unemployment has fallen from 28 to 18 percent it’s still the highest in 19-country Eurozone and many of the country’s best-and-brightest-and youngest keep moving out.
“I will not hold an early election, because I want to show that this is a country of normality. For me, the most significant achievement is that we are back in a normal condition,” he said, despite reports he had mulled calling snap polls on May 26 to coincide with those for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament.
CHE, HE’S NOT
He now has a minority government after his previous junior coalition partner, the tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of former defense chief Panos Kammenos pulled out in protest over the North Macedonia name deal.
He’s been able to keep a slight majority in Parliament with the help of handful of former rivals who jumped from their parties to become independents and ANEL members who decided staying as ministers in his government was better than staying with their party’s sinking ship and surveys showing ANEL polling around 1 percent, far below the 3 percent needed to get back into Parliament.
Tsipras said that Greece now has “a clear division between progressives and conservatives…we have showed that SYRIZA is a party of compromise, and that SYRIZA is the leader of the center left,” although that is taken by the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL), made up of former PASOK veterans, who have rejected joining him.
“We are a party that belongs to the European family of the governing left. And if you govern, you have to make compromises,” he said, sounding decidedly unlike his idol, Che Guevara, who was killed without compromising his ideals while what it took Tsipras to back down, critics said, the fear of being out of power or being cut off by Capitalists he said he despised.
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
For all his crowing he’s bringing a recovery – without mentioning, if so, it’s largely because he reneged on anti-austerity promises that included vows to reject the sale of more state assets – Tsipras also has become both pro-American (he was a vehement anti-American) and seeking foreign investors while elements in his party don’t want them.
His Finance Minister, Euclid Tskakalotos, a Marxist economist forced into embarrassing surrenders to bankers, had admitted overtaxing the middle class so that handouts could be given to the lower-income to woo voters as SYRIZA support largely vanished, even rang the bell at the opening of the New York Stock Exchange, the ultimate symbol of Capitalism.
Investors have been scared off by an avalanche of tax hikes that raised the corporate rate to 29 percent and even a test sale 10-billion euro ($11.32 billion) this year, the first since the crisis began, came at interest rates far higher than for the bailouts.
“Fundamentally, this is a party that remains uninterested in encouraging investment,” a senior banker who wasn’t named told the site. Indeed, the government has put the brakes on 600-billion euro ($679.19 billion) overhaul of the critical port of Piraeus by COSCO, the Chinese company that operates it, and stymied an $8 billion redevelopment of the abandoned Hellenikon Airport site that’s been unused for 18 years.
“For the moment, there is still surplus capacity in the economy, but soon we will require a lot more investment if we are to grow,” the banker said, with bad loans making up nearly 45 percent of bank portfolios as they are trying to shed some 60 billion euros ($67.92 billion.)
SYRIZA’s hostility to the market, said an industrial who wasn’t identified, was shown by its opposition to private universities, making Greece and Cuba the only countries in the world doing that.
MR. BEAN COUNTER
While The Economist said Tsipras, who critics said is wooden and with his lack of fluency in English an impediment internationally, is nonetheless charismatic, the paper described Mitsotakis, who was graduated from Harvard, has a Master’s in International Relations from Stanford and a Master’s from Harvard in Business Administration, as “geeky and soft-spoken.”
“He might have been sketched by a caricaturist to typify the Athens elite,” was the description. Yet Tsipras’ claims to be a Premier of the people isn’t selling with voters, who prefer Mitsotakis by a big margin too.
While many Greeks have blamed New Democracy for what Tsipras has tried to pin them with as a culture of corruption and cronyism, the SYRIZA leader has hired special advisors with no credentials and packed the government with the patronage he once decried.
While the paper said Tsipras won’t likely recover from his reneging and mistakes, he’s trying to voters he buried with austerity to bring him back, knowing the short attention span they have and providing handouts that are far less than less than what he cost them in benefit cuts and big tax hikes.
But, equally, it said, would be wrong to miscalculate on Mitsotakis, for all his lack of dynamism and coming off as upper-class. “It would be a mistake to underestimate him. He has transformed the party’s finances, moving to headquarters costing a tenth as much. In an earlier
government he did well as minister for administrative reform,” it said.
Mitsotakis said he would kick-start Hellenikon, attract investors, push privatization and concentrate on structural reforms instead of spending cuts and that he would cut the corporate rate to bring foreign companies.