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THESSALONIKI – Promising tax cuts and relief to austerity-crushed Greeks, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras also warned that it would be “political suicide” if the poll-leading major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) succeeds in getting early elections.

Samaras’ coalition of his New Democracy Conservatives and its partner the PASOK Socialists have been taking a beating in surveys for imposing pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings on the orders of international lenders and he used the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) to urge Greeks to stay the course with his administration.

The beleaguered Premier said Greece risks a “return to chaos” if it fails to elect a new President early next year and has to hold early national elections instead.

His coalition has only 153 of 300 votes in the Parliament and electing a new President to replace the outgoing Karolos Papoulias in February, 2015 requires 180 votes and SYRIZA has pledged to block any candidate if it can get support from other parties.

There were reports that the coalition would tab Democratic Left (DIMAR) chief Fotis Kouvelis as their choice for President to try to garner enough support to stymie any move by SYRIZA but nothing has come of that yet.

Samaras’ speech focused on three main themes: Greece’s economic recovery, tax cuts and the danger of failing to elect a new President. He used the opportunity to attack SYRIZA before Leftist leader Alexis Tsipras later comes to the fair to make his stand and case.

“Greece is gradually finding its feet… but there are those who would do whatever they can so nothing changes,” he said about SYRIZA, which is opposed to austerity. “They are not even afraid to play with the Constitution,” he said.

“They failed to bring down the government from the sidewalks so now they will try with the Presidential election,” he said, mocking the Leftists for not getting enough votes to govern.

Samaras insisted that a growing number of people believe the government’s candidate – which he hasn’t revealed – will be able to attract the minimum number of 180 votes needed in Parliament to be elected. Nevertheless, he argued that a failure to achieve this target would be disastrous for Greece.

“An early trip to the ballot box would be political suicide,” said Samaras, describing as “dangerous” those who “want to lead the country into the worst possible situation at the worst possible moment.”

“Who wants to take this risk? And to achieve what? A return to chaos?”

Samaras said that Greece should seek to be a beacon of stability when so many countries in the wider region are suffering serious problems, Kathimerini said.

“In Greece, which is so close to the volcano, instead of protecting our stability, safeguarding the security offered by the European Union and NATO, are we going to risk elections, a new round of instability and new friction with our partners?” he asked.

He also refuted critics and said that with the first signs of growth emerging, Greece’s public debt would soon be deemed sustainable although many analysts and even the country’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) believe it will take many years for that to happen.

“Although debt is still high, it has started to ease marginally and the drop will soon be even greater when measured against Gross Domestic Product,” he said.

Despite two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($317 billion), Greece’s debt is still 174 percent of GDP and the government is preparing its case for debt relief, and reportedly will seek lower interest rates, a longer time to repay and perhaps walk away from a big chunk of what it owes.

That would force the taxpayers in the other 17 countries of the Eurozone to pick up the tab for generations of wild overspending by alternating New Democracy and PASOK governments, a notion already blocked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has put up much of the loan monies.

Samaras also pledged to cut the cost of electricity for businesses and to create, with EU backing, a special economic zone in Thessaloniki to help keep firms from moving to neighboring Balkan countries, where labor costs and overheads are cheaper.

THE TAX CUTS ARE THERE

The Thessaloniki fair traditionally has been used by Prime Ministers to offer big giveaways to voters but it backfired for previous premier and then-PASOK leader George Papandreou who ahead of the 2009 elections said, “The money is there,” only to go hat-in-hand to the Troika for bailouts.

Although the Troika hasn’t given its approval, Samaras went ahead and said he would cut the consumption tax on heating oil by 30 percent after he raised it.

He said the heating fuel benefit would remain in place, which should mean that those receiving the handout this winter pay no more than around a euro per liter for their fuel. A big tax hike on the fuel brought in even lower receipts as Greeks turned to burning wood, plastic and construction debris instead, worsening the atmosphere as well.

The prime minister also pledged that the unified property tax (ENFIA) and solidarity tax on incomes, which resulted in many bills being 10 times higher than last year, would be cut but so far the government hasn’t moved to do it and taxpayers will otherwise have to pay astronomical bills based on flawed data

More details are expected in the 2015 national budget, which is due to be drafted over the next few weeks, too late to help people who have to pay now.

He further indicated that taxpayers owing money to the state would be granted more installments in which to pay it back over 100 installments although the Troika, which wants a limit of 72, hasn’t agreed to that either.

Samaras said that it his ultimate aim to reduce the top income tax rate to 32 percent and for business to pay no more than 15 percent but the Troika hasn’t agreed to that either.

The post Samaras Says Early National Elections “Political Suicide” appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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