NEWS

Political tensions on rise

COSTIS P. PAPADIOCHOS, VASSILIS ZIRAS

TAGS: Politics, Elections

Political tensions are expected to gradually peak over the next two weeks in the countdown to local authority and European Parliament elections as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras seeks to wring maximum gain from the relief measures he heralded last week and conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis stresses the government’s shortfalls.

A particularly vehement exchange between the two leaders in Parliament last Wednesday, though tempered by more civilized discourse on Friday, appeared to set the tone for what promises to be an acrimonious pre-election period.

Tsipras, whose leftist SYRIZA is still trailing ND in opinion polls, told reporters last Friday, after securing another confidence vote, that relief measures for 2019 would be approved in Parliament this week.

The premier, who indicated on Saturday that further handouts could be announced later this year, is counting on the social impact of those measures to bolster the flagging fortunes of the leftist party.

SYRIZA’s goal, it appears, is to limit ND’s victory in the European elections to a 5 percentage difference. That would give the leftists time to campaign for general elections in October with some kind of credibility.

If SYRIZA’s showing in the May 26 polls is worse, it is likely Tsipras will call early general elections.

The handouts Tsipras has promised to voters are the strongest card he has to play, though Greece’s creditors have expressed concern about the measures’ fiscal impact.

Even Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Houliarakis has been skeptical about the move and about attempts to reduce primary surplus targets, noting that this could eat into Greece’s cash buffer, Kathimerini understands.

Mitsotakis, for his part, is expected to point to a number of weak points; These include Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, whose criticism of a wheelchair-bound ND MEP candidate fueled a political storm that led to the confidence vote, as well as new revelations exposing the magnitude of state incompetence in the response to last summer’s disastrous fires in eastern Attica, and photographs of Tsipras on a businessman’s yacht a few weeks after the tragedy.

Rising lawlessness in the center, by self-styled anarchists, is another problem the ND leader is expected to highlight.

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