ATHENS – Facing perhaps his final countdown to defeat in July 7 snap elections he called, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras staunchly defended his 4 ½ years in office despite reneging in anti-austerity promises and giving away the name of the province Macedonia.
Ending a one-year boycott of the TV station SKAI, he appeared to explain why he had to backtrack and promises and insisted he would win re-election as surveys showed him some 9 percent behind the major opposition New Democracy.
“I am prepared to fight and win. Nobody should assume they'll win. Greek people have not yet made their final decision,” he told the TV channel.
He said a crushing defeat for SYRIZA candidates in the May 26 elections for European Parliament and Greek municipalities was because of voter fatigue and abstentions, not disenchantment with him for more austerity measures he swore to reject but implemented on demands of the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM.)
The lenders put up a third bailout in the summer of 2015, this one for 86 billion euros ($368.08 billion) he sought and accepted after swearing he wouldn't, earning him scorn from voters, the fury mounting after he agreed to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) be called North Macedonia and lifting Greek vetoes on its NATO and European Union bids.
Tsipras accused New Democracy of "unbelievable hypocrisy," over the name deal, saying the Conservatives agreed to the use of the name Macedonia in 2005 for the then-FYROM but didn't mention it was New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis' late father and then-Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis who allowed the use of the name in 1991 in a temporary deal.
Asked about his rush to replace retiring top officials of Greece's highest court he said he had “an obligation,” to do so and that he wasn't trying to influence the judiciary as critics repeatedly said during his tenure.
Questioned about the July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people after a chaotic response from his government, which had no evacuation or disaster plans, he said that he met with fire department officials and was told there might be “one or two dead,” although a SKAI documentary recently said his government tried to hide the death toll.
He also said it was “fake news” that his government was in support of jailed terrorist killers being released although his party is riddled with anarchist and terrorist supporters who went on violent rampages in Athens to demand a furlough from jail for one of the killers.
New Democracy, in a statement after he appeared, said he was “unapologetic” about the difficulties he put Greece through.
“Even at moments when he was forced to apologize, he could not hide his arrogance,” New Democracy said. “Tsipras' interview was useful because it reminded people that he is unapologetic about the destruction he caused to our country,” it added.