By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens
Greek main opposition party leader Alexis Tsipras visited the Thessaloniki International Fair over the weekend, making a speech on Saturday and holding a press conference on Sunday that drew much criticism.
The SYRIZA leader called for general elections immediately, characteristically pointing out that “with Samaras in power our partners will decide (our future) for us and that’s why we call for elections.” “Only a government with fresh mandate will be able to negotiate in Europe” Tsipras added.
On Saturday, Tsipras told the audience at the Velidion Exhibition Center that SYRIZA would demand a haircut on the majority of Greek debt so that it is rendered sustainable and that the payment of the remainder be indexed to the country’s growth rates. He also promised a SYRIZA government would launch a 2-billion-euro program to tackle social issues, scrap the unified property tax, raise the tax-free threshold to 12,000 euros and increase the minimum wage to 751 euros.
“We undertake the responsibility and we commit before the Greek people for a National Reconstruction Plan through which we will replace the memorandum, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations with the troika of Greece’s lenders” he said.
Furthermore, Tsipras also pledged the formation of a 5-billion-euro package to boost job creation; would seek to put 20 billion euros of 68 billion in tax arrears in a seven-year payment plan; as well as gradually restore pensions and salaries in the civil service.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and deputy PM Evangelos Venizelos were quick to criticize Tsipras and call the program he presented a “populist festival”. On Sunday, during his press conference, the SYRIZA leader refuted criticism that he made unrealistic promises, terming the ENFIA property tax imposed by the government “a madhouse that has driven the people crazy”, while arguing that its abolition was common sense, not some kind of benefit aimed at drawing in votes.
Moreover, Tsipras stated that SYRIZA’s realistic and carefully drawn out program in terms of what it will cost, would seek to remedy the humanitarian crisis in Greece which “cannot become a part of any negotiation with any lender”.
Referring to the election of a President of the Republic, Alexis Tsipras said his intention was for the vote in Parliament to take place after an early general election while attacking the Prime Minister by saying “he doesn’t care who will be elected President. He only wants to hang onto power”.
Asked if he could see his party governing in coalition with either New Democracy or PASOK, the SYRIZA leader ruled out any such possibility. “We will seek out coalitions, we will open up our tickets. We want a majority in Parliament but we are also realistic (…) we cannot cooperate with those who led ut to the cliff, those who are on the opposite pole from us”.
Responding to questions on Greece’s national issues, the main opposition leader said Samaras and Venizelos have shown a total disregard for institutions that allow for political parties to communicate on serious issues. He also pointed out that it is not a priority for SYRIZA to take Greece out of NATO despite arguing that the Organization has no reason to exist anymore and that it should be replaced by a new entity.
Photo Spiros Sideris