ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has reined in talk among ministers about early elections and handing out benefits to voters to ingratiate them with the ruling New Democracy.
Instead, he has said he will serve out his term until 2023 elections and will use the time to talk up the achievements of his administration even as it’s under attack from the major rival SYRIZA over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and a snowstorm and other issues.
Mitsotakis and close aides will showcase announced reforms, in health, education and the economy and try to persuade voters he offers stability as he also tries to accelerate an economic recovery.
The newspaper said he was under pressure from some in his Cabinet for early elections to take advantage of his popularity – which is taking a hit – and so that subsidies and handouts can be given to buy votes.
The government has been forced already by economic conditions in the energy market to provide subsidies for electric bills that jumped 189 percent at the same time that the costs for basic goods, including food, has jumped.
But there was no talk about reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) on food that is 24 percent for some items, making them out of reach for some families, and more people turning to generic brands.
Mitsotakis and the Finance Ministry have made it clear that the primary budget deficit target, 1.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), will not be exceeded although it doesn’t include the cost of running cities and towns, state enterprises, interest on debt and some military costs.
The Prime Minister’s strategy, it was said, will be to control spending – apart from massive subsidies to workers and businesses affected by lockdowns and key sectors – and then point out SYRIZA’s demand for more spending.
Mitsotakis also said that he won’t try to change an electoral law amended by SYRIZA when the Leftists were in power to which takes away a 50-seat bonus in the 300-member Parliament for a winning party.
That means that unless New Democracy has a huge win in 2023 elections and wins 151 seats that the Conservatives would need a coalition partner – which could be its arch-enemy SYRIZA.
Otherwise there would need to be a second election to try to gain a parliamentary majority although the splintered political landscape could even see a three-party coalition possibility appearing.
The resurgence in polls of the marginal center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) under the new leadership of Member of the European Parliament Nikos Androulakis is an unknown catalyst in the elections.