The jig is up

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NOTIS PAPADOPOULOS

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras’s re­cent pub­lic ap­pear­ances are a throw­back to Septem­ber 2014. Speak­ing at the Thes­sa­loniki In­ter­na­tional Fair as leader of SYRIZA op­po­si­tion four years ago, Tsipras had promised ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing that he would tear up Greece’s bailout agree­ment, scrap the ENFIA prop­erty tax, re­store hol­i­day bonuses and raise the min­i­mum wage. A vote for SYRIZA, the mes­sage was, would mean an ef­fort­less re­turn to Greece’s so-called “lob­ster spaghetti era.” Power-thirsty Tsipras co­op­er­ated with the Demo­cratic Left (DIMAR) party of Fo­tis Kou­velis to block the elec­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s pres­i­den­tial candi- date, thereby trig­ger­ing snap elec­tions. As a re­sult, he stopped the Greek econ­omy, which had just en­tered a growth phase, from ex­it­ing the bailout pro­grams. In­stead, Tsipras guided Greece into a third bailout pro­gram and a three-year re­ces­sion – and it all came with a price tag of around 100 bil­lion eu­ros. Tsipras is now re­peat­ing the same lies – with frills. Af­ter giv­ing into long­stand­ing de­mands from the Church of Greece for its dis­puted land not to be con­fis­cated (that is land that would soon come un­der state con­trol un­der the land registry) and for the state to con­tinue cov­er­ing the cost of cler­ics’ salaries, Tsipras got not just the bless­ing of Arch­bishop Ierony­mos (which is cru­cial ahead of elec­tions next year) but also the green light to take priests off the civil ser­vants’ reg­is­ter. The day af­ter, the PM said that mov­ing some 10,000 cler­ics off the state pay­roll would free up space for an­other 10,000 hir­ings in the pub­lic sec­tor. He also promised to retroac­tively re­turn to the coun­try’s pen­sion­ers the money they have lost as a re­sult of re­peated cuts. Tsipras fur­ther at­tacked con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion leader Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis, sug­gest­ing that he as­pired to in­tro­duce a Pinochet-in­spired pen­sion sys­tem if elected. The left­ist prime min­is­ter has switched the ma­chine of im­pos­si­ble hand­outs back on, hop­ing to pre­vent New Democ­racy from form­ing a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment and from gar­ner­ing the 180 votes needed to elect Greece’s next pres­i­dent. His aim is to block the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and once more trig­ger snap elec­tions, this time un­der the pro­vi­sions of a sim­ple pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion sys­tem. The fact is that the econ­omy is strug­gling and there is no money to hire more peo­ple in the pub­lic sec­tor. In fact, in or­der to achieve the bud­get sur­pluses agreed with the coun­try’s for­eign lenders (3.5 per­cent of GDP un­til 2022 and 2.2 per­cent of GDP un­til 2060), Tsipras has to take money away from the pub­lic in­vest­ment pro­gram. But this time vot­ers ap­pear to have learned their les­son. The jig is up.

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