Mitsotakis Says SYRIZA Bamboozled Greeks With Troika Austerity Deal


FILE - New Democracy eader Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Photo: Eurokinissi/Giorgos Kontarinis

ATHENS – Major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a deal Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras made with the country’s international creditors has defrauded Greeks.

In an interview on SKAI TV, Mitsotakis – who has taken his party to leads of more than 15 percent over Tsipras, who plummeted after reneging on anti-austerity deals – said he would bring Greece a lower primary surplus target if he comes to power, providing relief to a battered economy.

Mitsotakis said the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank would have trust in him than Tsipras, who battled them for nearly a year-and-a-half over terms of a third bailout of 86 billion euros ($94.58 billion) the Premier agreed to and then tried to change because of the harsh added measures it put on people he vowed to protect.

“We are reliable when it comes to reforms,” Mitsotakis told Skai. “We will bring jobs to Greece,” he said, adding that “I believe we can convince them that a 3.5 percent primary surplus is an impossible target,” even though it excludes interest on 326 billion euros ($358.52 billion) in three rescue packages, the cost of running cities and towns, state enterprises, social security and some military expenditures.

Mitsotakis dismissed the so-called countermeasures pledged by the government to offset austerity as a “great fraud,” referring to Tsipras’ promises to offset austerity with programs to aid the country’s most vulnerable, who will again bear the brunt of brutal conditions he said he would reverse but doubled down on.

He also accused the government of corruption, noting that it wrote off a 38-million-euro ($41.79 million) fine exacted on a tobacco firm co-owned by Greek-Russian businessman Ivan Savvidis as Tsipras abandoned his pledge to “crush the oligarchy”.

He said Tsipras is “erasing fines for (cigarette) smuggling against a businessman , who subsequently attacks the main opposition leader and backs the prime minister in an interview, saying that he'll also purchase mass media to back his (Savvidis) interests: that's the definition of clientelism," Mitsotakis said.

Mitsotakis also said a desperate Tsipras was talking out of both sides of his mouth in a bid to stay in power as long as possible, referring to the Premier opposing his own deal with the Troika to further cut pensions and tax low-income families.

Mitsotakis - who, as Administrative Reform Minister in a previous New Democracy-led coalition fired thousands of state workers and backed austerity - now opposes it and said Tsipras essentially agreed to a “fourth memorandum” with commitments for more austerity in 2019, a year after the three bailouts deal expires.

Mitsotakis said "Mr. Tsipras accepted everything (demands by creditors) and received nothing." He also ridiculed proposed countervailing measures - mostly increased welfare spending - which are based on the government hitting fiscal targets it has continually missed so far.

Mitsotakis reiterated his party's proposal for immediate tax cuts for taxpayers and businesses, in order to take advantage of a primary budget surplus recorded for 2016 - which was higher, by eight times, than the target of 0.5 percent of GDP.

The pro-market Mitsotakis repeated his pledge to lower tax rates in recession-battered Greece, while repeating that populism is now retreating across Europe, whether this political phenomenon emanates from the right or the left.

He read out a bitter comment from renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, who charged that "when a leftist is transformed into an immoral power-lover, then there are no ethical boundaries (for the latter) to maintain power."