ATHENS — The prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was striving to divide the country at a time when it needs to be united, main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance President Alexis Tsipras said in an interview with the news website www.ieidiseis.gr released on Sunday.
"Mr. Mitsotakis divides at a time when the country needs leadership that convinces and unites," Tsipras said, while he also predicted that the prime minister will be forced to hold early elections "before the wear caused by intractable problems in the economy" catches up with the government.
This was also the reason, according to Tsipras, why the prime minister was procrastinating on a series of issues, such as the cooperation protocols with North Macedonia or the privatisation of supplementary pensions, and that he gave a 150-euro 'bonus' to young people to get vaccinated, in order to boost the government's popularity in the younger age groups.
Responding to questions on the likelihood of a snap election, Tsipras suggested that this was never far from the prime minister's mind: "If the Delta variant did not exist, I consider the chances would have been high…irrespective of the course of the pandemic, these elections will not be long in coming, for reasons that are obvious, which I can see and the government can see: that it finds itself at a strategic impasse while its policy creates intractable economic problems."
He predicted that the prime minister will be forced to call elections due to his obsessively anti-popular choices on a series of economic and social issues.
Tsipras also accused the prime minister of constantly striving to cast the blame on others for the problems, attacking first one group, then another, and seeking to divide society.
He denied that SYRIZA wanted elections but said he had placed the party in a state of "electoral readiness" to avoid being taken by surprise, while the aim was to hold the party's congress within 2021 if the pandemic allows. Over the passage of time, Tsipras added, he expected the accumulated dissatisfaction with the present government to start transforming into a specific political direction, at which time political developments will unfold.
Tsipras said the party's goal remains to appeal to the voters of the centre and win the elections, and to lead with an outright majority of at least 151 votes in Parliament.
He strongly criticised the prime minister's "contradictory" decisions for the handling of the pandemic and also accused Mitsotakis of personally breaking pandemic rules "with bike rides on Parnitha and the party on Ikaria", saying this had created a very negative climate in Greek society.
"If anyone is guilty of sabotaging health, then it is him. For a year and a half now, he has not hired a single permanent doctor, he has abandoned the national health system to its fate and left healthcare staff to face the pandemic on the frontline in very harsh conditions without support," Tsipras said.
Peloni: Tsipras the 'most divisive politician' of post-junta era
Government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni, responding to criticism targeting the government and the prime minister, on Sunday accused main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader of having "excessive gall" when he accused others of being divisive.
"The citizens do not have the memory of goldfish. Every time Mr. Tsipras speaks of division, we will remind him of his own actions: the referendum of 2015, the 'us or them', and 'either we finish them, or they finish us' and the use of parastate mechanisms to eliminate his political opponents.
"It takes excessive gall for the most divisive politician in post-junta history to speak of division," Peloni said.