ATHENS – National elections will be held in the spring, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated in an interview to national broadcaster ERT on Thursday evening, adding that he does not wish to prolong the current toxic campaign period.
“As I have said several times, we shall hold elections sometime in the spring,” Mitsotakis told journalist Giorgos Kouvaras, as the government’s four-year term is coming to a close.
Addressing the charges by main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance that recent announcements of bonuses and benefits relate to influencing the electorate, the Greek PM said, “They are not benefits in the sense of buying votes – far be it from me to have such an idea. But neither are these benefits that are funded by loans. They are moves and expenditures that come out of the surplus of the Greek economy. They are the product of development, not the product of borrowing, or the product of overtaxing the middle class.”
The government is providing these subsidies because it has to manage an imported inflation, and they will not be followed by more. “We have exhausted our ability to do so for the immediate future. There is no more framework, I would say – no other support package.”
As for the threat of auctions of primary homes over defaulted loans, of which Syriza accuses him, Mitsotakis reiterated that the entire legislative framework for these was instituted under Syriza rule and he called the charges ‘hypocritical’. He also underlined that a so-called wave of auctions was unlikely, while adding that the recent decision of the Supreme Court basically validates earlier legislation in the same framework.
He was referring to Greece’s Supreme Court decision on February 9 that servicers based in Greece – who are managing portfolios of non-performing loans in the country – have the right to participate in court actions and carry residential auctions under their brand name and not as representatives of funds.
In terms of relations with Türkiye following the devastating earthquakes there and in Syria on February 6, the PM said it was Greece’s obligation to help Türkiye immediately by sending rescue teams and humanitarian aid. Asked if he thought the warm response could improve relations between the two countries, Mitsotakis said it was possible “under conditions and by redefining the relations of Türkiye with the West overall.” But this, he added, was up to the Turkish leadership. “I do not believe that countries change policy from one moment to the next, or that Turkish revisionism will be cancelled from one moment to the next. I believe there was a climate of emotional closeness, I would say, created between the two peoples, which is significant. It is our obligation and my personal obligation to take advantage of it,” he said.
The Greek leader also commented on the visit to Greece of United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, between February 16-22, when he will make stops in Germany and Turkey as well. Mitsotakis said that the US recognizes that Greece plays a significant role as a regional power which provides stability in a turbulent part of the world. As he said, “I will have the opportunity to speak with the US state secretary, obviously we shall discuss regional issues. He will be arriving from Turkey, but I want to underline that Greek-US relations are not defined through this triangular relationship, as some may believe.”
Mitsotakis also responded to Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras and PASOK-Movement for Change (KINAL) leader Nikos Androulakis about the issue of democracy and institutions following the cellphone surveillance issue, and said that the European Commission’s report on the matter bears no relation to the picture the opposition wants to present.
Tsipras and those who criticize him for undermining democracy “have a purpose,” the PM said, “and it is to create suspicions about the validity of the national election results.” Asked to clarify, he said, “I mean that they are trying to say something of the sort ‘citizens have voted for Syriza but New Democracy will win the elections’.” Asked whether he believes this means that Syriza will claim ballot-counting fraud in the elections, Mitsotakis asserted, “If you see where their arguments are leading to, I have no doubt they will end up saying that as well, yes.” He also referred indirectly to actions by Syriza MEPs in the European Parliament, charging the main opposition with having crossed the line and discrediting Greece abroad.
The premier was asked about his greatest mistake during his four-year tenure, and he responded that the fires in the summer of 2021 and the issue of cellphone surveillance were the toughest times for him personally. “From the very first moment, I spoke out, I assumed my responsibilities. And the most important thing is, we made changes. We made changes to the legislative framework and key changes in the way the National Information Service works,” he explained.
Asked whether his cabinet would change after elections, he said there would be a lot of new faces on ballots. “There will obviously be significant changes in people, one would expect this, and definitely more women,” he revealed. Asked if more women will be included in the ballots, he said their percentage of women on ballots already came to 40%. “I would like to believe that on many ballots we will exceed the very limit the law places as well,” he added.