ATHENS – In a sideways shot at the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA he unseated in July 7, 2019 snap elections, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greeks don’t want populist leaders as he warned of threats from authoritarianism.
“In recent years, Greece, the birthplace of democracy, experienced first hand the divisive politics, failed promises and empty rhetoric of both far-left and far-right populism – and has rejected both,” he told the Summit for Democracy, held online Dec. 9-10 at the initiative of US President Joe Biden.
Mitsotakis was one of 111 global state leaders invited to address the summit, and pointed to the dangers of autocratic leaders without mentioning Hungary or Poland which are resisting the European Union rule of law.
He also didn’t mention his government under fire from media freedom groups and journalists after passing a law aimed at preventing the spread of fake news about COVID-19 but which could bring fines and jail for reporters and publishers too.
Instead, Mitsotakis talked about Greece’s slow comeback from a near decade of an economic and austerity crisis although harsh measures were supported by a previous New Democracy regime under then-premier Antonis Samareas.
That led to SYRIZA’s 4 1/2-year reign before the Leftists were bounced by New Democracy. “Greeks understood the need for true change, backing a reform agenda that was patriotic rather than nationalistic,” he said, reported Reuters.
While SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras continues to accuse him of mishandling a response to the pandemic that saw a resurgence of the Coronavirus, Mitsotakis has turned his attention to an economic recovery.
He said that he wants to improve the efficiency of Greece’s notoriously bogged-down bureacuracy and slow boat public sector and that he wants to boost entrepreneurship in a country where political ties are often more important.
Biden made a plea to bolster democracies around the world, calling safeguarding rights and freedoms in the face of rising authoritarianism the “defining challenge” of the current era after his administration essentially admitted it had to back away from confronting Saudi Arabia for allegedly approving the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, because trade was just too important.