THESSALONIKI – Two years after being routed by New Democracy in snap elections, major opposition SYRIZA leader and former Premier Alexis Tsipras said if returned to power he would undo many of his broken former vows.
Attacking Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as an elitist and running a corrupt government for the rich and privileged, Tsipras said if elected again that he would deliver on promises to help those most hurt by his former administration when he whacked workers, pensioners and the poor with harsh austerity.
Speaking at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in a rebuttal to Mitsotakis' keynote address, Tsipras said that, “We need a new state that will not be manipulated by the elites, that will be just in its core and will shy away from corruption and plundering the public purse.”
Rebranded as a Progressive Alliance from the former name Radical Left after he took a pounding in the July 7, 2019 election, he said his party will try to bring in other leftist elements.
He said a new SYRIZA would abolish what he called the “excessive, scandalous salaries of the ‘golden boys’,” a reference to appointed heads of public enterprises and aides, without mentioning his hires when he ruled were rewarded.
He also said, reported Kathimerini, that he would create a National Security Council, that public sector hirings will be made by an upgraded Supreme Personnel Selection Council (ASEP) although didn't say whether that would rule out the runaway patronage his government continued.
He also said that the state TV station and the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA0 chiefs would be appointed by Parliament – which his government would control and would have to follow his direction.
After he continued health sector cuts during his 4 ½-year reign, Tsipras said if he gets another chance that he would pump in an extra 2 billion euros ($2.35 billion) plus 1 billion euros ($1.17 billion) from a European Union COVID-19 recovery of some 32 billion euros ($37.52 billion) in loans and grants.
He said he would raise the entry monthly salary of public doctors whose pay was held down during his government, to 2,000 euros ($2345) and hire 5,500 more health care workers immediately and 10,000 over three years, although he didn't explain from where the money would come.
He had been especially critical of Mitsotakis' handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that's more than 18 months long and showing no signs of abating, amid fears of a fourth wave as it has been resurging.
Unhappy that the New Democracy government set minimum grade standards to be admitted to public universities, Tsipras said he would reverse that and essentially open the doors to anyone who wants to get in even if they can't pass tests once there. He said he would double university spending over four years.
After he broke a promise to raise the minimum wage during his former administration, blaming the country's creditors, he said this time he really would and bring it to 800 euros ($930) monthly.
He blamed New Democracy for passing what he called a “miserable” labor reform law that “leads employees to servitude.” “We will restore the sacred right to strike and will implement a pilot 35-hour-week program,” he added.
He said he would also abolish the so-called Solidarity Tax that he had continued after vowing previously to end it – New Democracy has suspended it during the pandemic to help beleaguered workers.
Tsipras said he would cut taxes for incomes up to 65,000 euros ($76,218) annually as Greece hits taxpayers for up to 45 percent of their income but didn't say what he would do without the additional revenues to govern.
Tsipras accused Mitsotakis of “deceiving the middle class…they are not those Mr. Mitsotakis is talking to…he has lost the citizens’ confidence. Mr. Mitsotakis governs for his army of party hacks,” he added, the paper reported.
Tsipras didn't mention he hired unqualified people to a number of positions, including as his advisors, one of them a former pizza delivery man who boasted he was a user of heroin and cocaine.