THESSALONIKI – With his party trailing the major opposition SYRIZA, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras used a ceremony marking his New Democracy party’s 40th anniversary to warn the Leftists are a danger to the country and that only the Conservatives can save Greece.
SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left, has grown its lead on the back of a platform that is opposed to the harsh austerity measures Samaras and his coalition partner the PASOK Socialists implemented on orders of international lenders to get 240 billion euros ($317 billion) in two bailouts.
The Premier, in a speech at the Athos Palas hotel – the same venue where, in April 1977, New Democracy founder Konstantinos Karamanlis organized the party’s first pre-congress and, later, first official congress – said the Conservatives have been the only saving force for Greece for four decades, although critics said the party, and PASOK, precipitated an economic crisis with wild overspending and packing public payrolls with needless patronage hires in return for votes.
He said New Democracy is the only party that offers a future for crisis-ridden Greeks. “We can see the difficulties, we are not frightened by them and we can face them. New Democracy has a lot to offer, we have not seen our victories yet,” he said, calling on those who have left the party to return and fight for its ideals.
“We fight for passion, for the ‘flame inside us,’ for democracy, for freedom and for Greece. Long live New Democracy,” he continued.
“I am not tired of fighting for what is right for the country, I know I am doing what is right for Greece. I want to cooperate with all those willing to offer to Greece.”
Although SYRIZA has opened a lead after the two parties took turns at the top in surveys for the last year, he said the Leftists won’t come to power. “SYRIZA will never become a government in Greece. Its political choice of “there is money” is very frightening,” he said.
That was an allusion to SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras’ promises that he would restore pay, cut taxes, rehire fired workers and either revise the terms of the bailouts with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) or renege, which would leave Greece broke.
He said he’d operate on savings from ending corruption and cracking down on tax evasion although most of his economic plan remains vague.
A SYRIZA spokesman ridiculed the remarks. “Instead of analyzing the strategy of his party, he transformed the event to mark the 40th anniversary of his party to a memorial service. He resorted only to an idle delirium against SYRIZA,” the Leftists said in a statement.
Samaras repeated that he’s brought Greece to the edge of recovery four years after a PASOK administration under the Socialist’s then-leader George Papandreou first asked for international help. Samaras said Greece will be able to stand on its “own feet” without more foreign loans.
While unemployment remains near record highs and he’s failed to deliver on promises to create jobs, he said Greeks buried by pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings should be encouraged that he’s brought some change to the beleaguered economy.