ATHENS – Battling on a number of fronts – inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to accelerate the economy, complaints about media freedom – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis nonetheless said he’s confident his New Democracy government will easily win re-election in 2023.
That again dismissed any idea of early elections being sought by the major opposition SYRIZA, whom he ousted in July, 2018, the Leftists wanting a showdown now despite being down 10-14 points in polls.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his goal is for the ruling center-right New Democracy to obtain another parliamentary majority in elections “that will take place 12 months from now.”
But there’s a hitch. Before being beaten down, SYRIZA passed a law taking away a 50-seat majority bonus for the front-runner which means unless New Democracy gets a landslide that a second election would be required, or a coalition government.
That could see a hydra government of bitter rivals, the idea – critics said – of SYRIZA to try to come back to power in any form, even serving the Conservatives as a junior partner.
The only other play is the rebuilding center-left Movement for Change, whose name will be changing, as it tries to morph back into political relevance under the wing of former stalwarts of the once-dominant PASOK Socialists.
That party went under after betraying its alleged principles to support harsh austerity measures in order to be a partner with a former ruling New Democracy government as well.
The Mitsotakis government has since voted a law awarding a 30-seat bonus to the party that wins the election, noted Kathimerini, but the Greek constitution provides that a new electoral law can take effect only in the second election after it is passed, unless approved by two-thirds of the MPs.
Mitsotakis, speaking at the close of his party’s 14th Congress, said that SYRIZA “unscrupulously and in cahoots with (extreme right) Golden Dawn voted” the electoral law that “created a problem of governance in the country.” That was in reference to the now-disbanded neo-Nazi party whose leaders were jailed after being convicted of operating a criminal gang,
Mitsotakis says his party, which has consistently been leading in opinion polls, will face the first election as “the springboard to the final victory,” and he painted a picture of only successes during the pandemic.
“We did not deceive the citizens. We were elected on a specific program, which we are implementing,” he claimed, telling To Vima newspaper that he expects re-election based on expectations, not past performances.
And, as he told the congress delegates, “we have a four-year program, an eight-year plan and a decade-long vision,” including how to rein in inflation and keep up subsidies for high energy prices, but he hasn’t moved to reduce a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food.
A 50-euro ($52.7) increase in the monthly minimum wage, bringing it to 713 euros ($751.67) was dismissed as inadequate by SYRIZA – which didn’t move to raise it while in power 4 ½ years, breaking a vow.
Mitsotakis went right after his rivals, predicting they will go on a gutter-style attack when elections loom and that, “populism will deal its last hand … it will be its most desperate attack, harshest, and most vulgar ever.”
SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras hasn’t been able to put a dent in Mitsotakis or the Conservatives’ lead even while sniping about the soaring cost of energy that has almost doubled electric bills.
“After nine months during which Mitsotakis with his policy, has left uncontrolled the profiteering in the energy sector and has looted households and businesses, today, frightened in the face of the rage and indignation of the Greek society, he is trying to take some measures in an effort to rescue what could be rescued, if it can be rescued,” Tsipras said while touring the northern city of Kavala.
“For us, any measures, even those that come too late, are welcome. Even more welcomed is a decision he must take: The recourse to the popular verdict,” he underlined.
Mitsotakis also said that under his reign that the relationship with the United States, and military cooperation has become stronger than ever and he’s building defenses against Turkish aggressions and claims to the seas between the countries.
He will lay all of that out when he addresses the U.S. Congress on May 17, five days after the Greek Parliament will ratify the 5-year extension of the Mutual Defense and Cooperation Agreement with the United States.