DAVOS – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos used an interview at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland to lay out his case for wanting to stay in power in May elections, pointing to what he said was an array of achievements.
That came as he responded to questions from CNN correspondent Fareed Zakaria, the Greek leader trying to take the wind out of the sails of the major opposition and rebranded SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance.
The Leftists, who ruled for 4 ½ years until being ousted by Mitsotakis’ New Democracy in July, 2019 snap elections, were called the Radical Left during their tenure and keen for the coming rematch showdown.
“Greeks will compare between four years of the previous government, which was in my mind a populist government that didn’t really do the country much good, and four years of our government. So if we are going to win, as I believe we will, it will be a vote of confidence,” said Mitsotakis.
“The main cleavages today are not so much between the center right and the center left, but between those who believe in policy pragmatism and in our well functioning democracies and those who promise the moon while at the same time undermining democratic institutions,” he said.
He acknowledged being a center-right politician but said that, “Many of the policies that we’ve pursued could be labeled as rather progressive,” taking the name right out from under his opponents.
Surveys show New Democracy’s lead has been nearly halved, to around 7 percent, after constant sniping from SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras, focused on a surveillance scandal.
Mitsotakis mentioned none of that – nor was questioned about it by Zakaria – as the government has tried to bury the bad news that keeps popping back up with more revelations about phone bugging of politicians and others.
Instead, Mitsotakis used the chance to roll off – without largely being challenged on any front – of how he said his government has turned around a country he said was nearly brought to ruin by SYRIZA populism – without naming his rivals directly.
“We came into power in July 2019 and we inherited a country and an economy that was still traumatized, not just as a result of financial crisis, but also traumatized from our experiment with populism, which essentially unnecessarily prolonged the crisis for four additional years,” he said.
He said that was done by dealing with the waning COVID-19 pandemic by ending health restrictions to bring in tourists, attract more Foreign Direct Investment and try to wean off dependence on Russian energy with greater use of more sustainable and green power alternatives.
“Greece is no longer the sick man of Europe and that we’re actually leading Europe on numerous fronts when it comes to innovative public policy. And this, of course, gives us strength and energy as we move into our election cycle to make a case that we should be given the opportunity to govern Greece for four more years,” Mitsotakis added.
He also said Greece won’t go to war with Turkey but didn’t say what will happen if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – also facing a re-election challenge in May – makes good on a threat to invade.
Erdogan has insisted that Greece take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and said it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles, further sealing Turkey off from the seas.
“I’m more concerned with -because there’s a lot of noise in Turkey about Greece building up its armed forces. And I ask, does anybody reasonably believe that the Greek islands are a threat to the Turkish mainland? Or is it more realistic to believe that the Turkish mainland is a threat to the Greek islands?” asked Mitsotakis.