With surveys showing Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is starting to cut hard into the lead of his major rival New Democracy ahead of the May 26 elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament, the noted news magazine The Economist thinks he may have too much baggage to make it.
Trying to recoup favor with voters – with general elections coming later this year – Tsipras, who plummeted after reneging on anti-austerity vows – has gone on a barrage of handouts and tax cuts, which has seen New Democracy’s lead cut in half.
But he’s struggling with issues that don’t have to do with the economy, which is showing signs of a recovery after more than nine years of bailouts and austerity, albeit with the country’s creditors saying the giveaways are threatening to undermine the rebound.
In an article entitled Alexis Tsipras Sails into Social Media Storm in Greece, the site noted the fury over reports that he took a vacation on a yacht in the summer of 2018, shortly after devastating wildfires outside Athens killed 102 people.
A documentary on SKAI TV, a station boycotted by the Leftists because it won’t support the government’s policies, said that SYRIZA tried to hide the death count and downplay a chaotic and confused response to the disaster.
The magazine said Tsipras is trying to play up his Leftist credentials again, as he did to win power, before he surrendered to the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) in the summer of 2015 to get a third rescue package, this one for 86 billion euros ($96.04 billion.)
That came with more brutal measures he swore to reject but then agreed to implement while saying it wasn’t his fault, hammering workers, pensioners and the poor while letting escape the rich, the oligarchs he said would crush, tax cheats, his alleged ideological enemies, and politicians.
“In speeches, the prime minister makes a point of distancing the ruling Syriza party from the corrupt, high-living elite he blames for plunging the country into an unprecedented eight-year recession,” the news magazine said, not mentioning his yacht vacation and playing up to rich interests.
LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT
But while his party is riddled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers and anti-establishment groups supporting furloughs for a jailed terrorist killer, SYRIZA has found itself the target of far-left protests that Tsipras caved in to the creditors.
That led the magazine to say that some aides worry he’s lost touch with voters and his base which had abandoned him in droves as he broke essentially all over the 40 points of his campaign platform ahead of the January, 2015 elections.
That includes reversing his anti-American and anti-NATO stance near and dear to the heart of the hard-core elements in SYRIZA as he wooed US support, which wants an expanded military presence in Greece.
He also sent troops to help NATO in foreign wars, helping an organization was once a hated enemy of SYRIZA but making a deal to give away the name of the ancient Greek province of Macedonia to a newly-renamed North Macedonia, opening the way for its entry into the defense alliance.
The report noted Tsipras took a casual campaign tour on Crete with Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, a Cretan, backing him over a furor in which the minister derided a wheelchair-bound New Democracy candidate for the European Parliament.
“Tsipras shrugged off the incident, calling Mr. Polakis ‘a blunt-spoken islander,,” giving free rein to the minister to keep attacking SYRIZA enemies at will, with no fear of consequences despite conduct rivals said was despicable and shameless.
When New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis called for a vote of censure in Parliament, Tsipras turned it into a vote of confidence for him, knowing his minority government – which has only 145 seats in the 300-member body – would win.
That was due to a handful of former rivals and alleged Independents changing their alleged principles to back him, one of whom was rewarded with the position of Tourism Minister despite having no qualifications for the job.
But the key part of Tsipras’ strategy is the handouts and tax cuts that are far less than the tax hikes and benefit cuts he imposed in a bid to make voters forget what he did to them, and it has been working, if not enough to catch New Democracy, but cut the Conservatives margin of victory for the general elections.
Tsipras is trying to wiggle out of other austerity measures to which he agreed with the Troika, including his agreement to put taxes on previously exempt lower-income individuals and families without putting a 75 percent tax on the rich he said he would.
“Voters are unfazed by Mr. Tsipras’ choice of holiday companions, it seems, if he comes up with tax breaks and generous handout,” said The Economist, as he hopes it’s full sail ahead.