THESSALONIKI – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ address at the Thessaloniki International Fair was aimed at delivering handouts to voters with the 2023 elections coming but also to fend off his rivals.
In doing so, he effectively began a long pre-election campaign period as he’s under intense pressure over a spyware scandal, the fear of a conflict with Turkey, soaring energy prices and the highest inflation in nearly 30 years.
In a direct pitch to voters with the major opposition SYRIZA and rising PASOK Socialists nipping at his heels, he said that: “We either continue forward or we turn back! Either we give progress a second chance or risk a second disaster!”
That was in reference to the former rule of SYRIZA and then-premier Alexis Tsipras who broke virtually every promise he made, including not to impose austerity to get a third bailout from European lenders.
Mitsotakis said, “It is my duty to warn citizens: none of the things we achieved is a given. And everything can be torn down with a wrong move. But that’s how democracy works. By leaving that decision exclusively in the hands of the people. And the people have seen, have learned and know the path they will choose.”
He said, reported Kathimerini, that he needs more than one four-year term to accomplish all that he wants to achieve, although changes in the electoral law made by SYRIZA will take away a 50-seat bonus in Parliament for the winner.
That means a second election or a coalition, unless Mitsotakis breaks his vow not to reinstate the 50-seat bonus that would give his party another rule without a partner if the current surveys showing him 6-8 percent hold by then.
“The normal calendar says that we are entering the final year of our first term in power. The social calendar, however, shows that the needs of the people go beyond four-year terms,” Mitsotakis said.
“We are called to choose between the path of growth and that of regression; that of confidence or self-doubt; of patriotism or national self-consciousness; of economic prosperity for all or stagnation,” he said.
He made the elections a question of trust or whether people believe in him or SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras whose call for early elections repeatedly were rebuffed by Mitsotakis who rolled the dice on finishing out his term.
“Now we know who can manage and overcome crises and who are those that remain sullen spectators…That’s why, when the time comes, we will not only choose a government, but also a Governor,” he said.
HANG ON SNOOPY
He has already put behind him the scandal in which PASOK Socialist leader Nikos Androulakis – also a Member of the European Parliament – had his phone bugged by the National Intelligence Service (EYP) and an attempt made to install spyware that failed when he didn’t open a text message link.
Mitsotakis, whose first act when taking power in July 2019 and ousting SYRIZA was to have the head of EYP report directly to him, said that didn’t happen in this case and that he was never informed, saying while it was legal that it was wrong.
“It was an operational error, for which the government immediately assumed the objective political responsibility,” he said, a parliamentary committee ruled by his party already killing the revelation of any potentially damaging findings.
He said the scandal gave him a chance to reform EYP although the investigation will be kept secret as are the names of 15,745 people whose phones are bugged and EYP and the government refusing to say why.
He said that EYP “always was, is, and will be even more valuable in the coming era. Its operation must be improved – not bogged down, and to be corrected – not voided. This, I have a national duty not to allow. Just as we should not allow current issues to be entrapped in introversion, in rumors, and in (conspiracy) ‘scenarios’. Especially when something like this would actually be something desired by many forces outside of Greece.”
He has bigger worries in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who’s upset Greece won’t take troops off Aegean islands near his coast and has openly warned he may invade, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.
“The threats that come from the other side of the Aegean can be answered with one word, one that sums up our nation’s entire strength: No, Mr. Erdogan, no more swashbuckling against Greece,” he said, drawing a standing ovation.
Concerning Greece’s partners and alliances, Mitsotakis said that “it now has several more allies, as it has signed many collaboration agreements with countries in the Western world, in Africa, in the Arab world and also in Asia.” Among these, he said, “are strategic and defense agreements, of which the most significant are with the US and France.”
“The national stake, which continues to pervade time, remains the same: that through ever-changing conditions the homeland stays free, sovereign and independent, and its citizens prosper, breathing the air of a democracy that protects them and provides them with opportunities to create more for themselves and for their families,” he said.
“Division and demagoguery only breed defeat, while unity and truth only lead to victories,” he underlined, noting that 12 years after Greece began getting 326 billion euros ($330.97 billion) in three international bailouts that surveillance of the economy by the lenders has effectively ended.