Using his turn at bat speaking at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair, major opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras called again for national elections and said he would tear up the country’s deal with international lenders, end austerity, rehire fired workers, restore the minimum wage and Christmas bonuses for pensioners, abolish a new unified property tax and seize the bank accounts of debtors to the state.
“This government does not want to and cannot claim national interests. Only a government with a fresh mandate can. We ask for elections now,” said the Coalition of the Radical Left leader, speaking a week after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appeared and promised tax cuts.
He spoke as a new survey found SYRIZA, which is vehemently opposed to the pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that the coalition of Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and its partner the PASOK Socialists imposed on orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) is pulling away.
Earlier polls had found SYRIZA with a statistically-negligible lead over New Democracy, or the parties changing leads. The survey done by Metron Analysis for the newspaper Parapolitika gave SYRIZA 23 percent to New Democracy’s 20.4 percent, a 2.6 percent lead.
Surprisingly, the nearly dormant KKE Communist party was third with 5.6, followed by the ultra-extremists Golden Dawn at 5.3 percent, the new To Potami (The River) at 4.8 and ELIA, which includes PASOK, at 4.6 percent. Last was the right-wing Independent Greeks at 3 percent.
The Democratic Left (DIMAR), which served in the coalition government, didn’t register. Its leader, Fotis Kouvelis, has been mentioned as a possible choice by the ruling parties to be their nominee for the next Greek President in February 2015 to replace Karolos Papoulias.
Tsipras and the Independent Greeks said they would try to block any government candidate, who would need 180 of the 300 votes in Parliament. The ruling parties have only 154 votes and if a new President isn’t elected it could trigger the national elections Tsipras said he wants before the coalition’s term runs out in 2016.
New Democracy and PASOK have paid a price for supporting austerity and Tsipras seized on the angry public mood in his speech even though Samaras has said a recovery is within sight beginning late in the year.
He said not only would the state rehire the scores of thousands of public workers who have been let go during a crushing economic crisis that has created record unemployment and deep poverty, but that he would create jobs.
“We have a plan to create 300,000 jobs,” in the public and private sector he said, without revealing it. “The dilemma in the ballot will be SYRIZA or New Democracy and the Occupation Loan,” as he described the deal with the Troika.
He also said he would provide free electricity to 300,000 homes whose residents aren’t able to pay utility bills, roll back a big tax on fuel oil – something Samaras also said he would do – halt the privatization of public properties and give the lands to the money-bleeding state insurance funds, expand the eligibility for jobless benefits and bring back the closed national broadcaster ERT which has been replaced by a new station, NERIT.
Apart from going after tax cheats, Tsipiras offered scant detail on how he would pay for all his promises, especially since if Greece walks away from the 240 billion euros ($317 billion) it owes the Troika it would leave the country broke and likely unable to also borrow from the private markets.
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