ATHENS – With a poll showing he's 19.5 percent behind the ruling New Democracy who ousted him, backtracking Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he doesn't think early elections would be such a great idea.
He said calling snap polls – as he wanted – while the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is still winding down would be political “opportunism,” but then took shots at Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' handling of Turkish provocations and economic program.
“I am not afraid of a snap vote,” Tsipras told Kathimerini’s Executive Editor Alexis Papachleas in an interview. “But I do believe that… while it is not yet clear if there will be a second wave, it would be irresponsible to trigger political developments that would create even greater insecurity.”
He defended the simple proportional representation system for favoring multiparty coalition governments his former ruling administration brought to try to keep influence but said SYRIZA will return to power because of societal shifts but “not as a protest party, but as a creative force.”
He didn't explain why it wasn't a creative force during its 4-1/2 year reign that ended in July 7, 2019 snap elections in a defeat to Mitsotakis and the Conservatives after he had reneged on anti-austerity promises, hitting workers, pensioners and the poor.
Tsipras also accused the Mitsotakis of sending Greece back into recession in the first quarter of 2020 and of failing to lure foreign investment, while chastising the conservatives for their “dramatic” handling of the migration issue.
Tsipras didn't mention his party is filled with elements who don't want foreign investors nor that his government stymied major projects such as the 8-billion euro ($9.03 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport and an overhaul of the port of Piraeus by the Chinese company COSCO that runs it.
He pointed to the island of Lesbos where the notorious Moria detention center holding 18,000 refugees and migrants – which, under his administration was called by the BBC “the worst in the world” - but blamed New Democracy for its state.
“In Moria, the number of migrants rose from 6,000 to 26,000, while the attempt to create new closed centers turned into a fiasco,” he said,
With Greece having one of the best records in the world in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that held down the number of deaths and cases, even he acknowledged the government had done a good job but said he would have done better.
After hitting the health care sector with more budget cuts while he was in power, Tsipras said he now would have hired more health care workers and improved the hospital infrastructure which deteriorated under him.
Asked about Turkey trying to get migrants across the northern land border along the Evros River, which was stopped when Greece shut its side and sent riot police and Army units to repeal attempts to cross, he said the government doesn't have a strategy.
“The fear of (assuming0 responsibility in the name of a purported patriotic intransigence has often resulted in national defeat,” he said, adding that Mitsotakis reacted to further New Democracy's opposition to SYRIZA's deal with North Macedonia giving away the name of an ancient Greek province opposed by two-thirds of Greeks.
“I have decided not to do the same (as Mitsotakis did.) On issues where cross-party consensus is possible, I will be there to grant it,” Tsipras said without mentioning he refused to reach out for consensus when in power.
He said that Mitsotakis brought a recession before the pandemic although under New Democracy the economy was starting to improve faster before a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 closed businesses for more than two months.
Tsipras accused the government that the "explosion of unemployment, of lockdowns and recession is not the result of the pandemic but is a strategic choice" without explaining why Mitsotakis would want the economy to fail.
He said he will return to power one day because"the heart of the major progressive and democratic party, sooner or later, will be again in position to claim the social majority" as he moves toward the center-left, being less radical.