Opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to resign on May 26 and call an early national election if he loses the election for the European Parliament two weeks from now.
Most polls show Mitsotakis' New Democracy with a comfortable lead over the ruling SYRIZA.
A national election is not due until October.
In a press conference carried live on most Greek TV channels, Mitsotakis chided Tsipras for promising an extra month's pay to pensioners ahead of the election, but added his party will vote for the one-off “allowance,” as he called it.
Mitsotakis challenged Tsipras to accept his party's proposal not to lower the tax-free income bracket, saying not accepting it would be hypocritical. In any case, he said, a New Democracy government would implement this proposal.
The current government has agreed to lower the non-taxable portion of income from the current 8,635-9,545 euros – depending on marital status and profession – to between 6,250-7,000 euros beginning for 2019 incomes declared in 2020 tax returns. The measure will hit people with annual incomes below 20,000 euros, with those earning a meager 10,000 hit the hardest, while those with higher incomes will benefit from tax cuts.
Commending on the attacks on riot police early Sunday, a phenomenon which regularly occurs in the Athens center, Mitsotakis said the current government lacks the “political will” to deal with security issues. He promised hiring new police, and adding new police patrol cars.
The government's dismal record on security extends to matters of wider civil protection, said, Mitsotakis, calling the state civil protection response mechanisms “a shambles.” He said it will be through sheer luck that a repetition of last year's catastrophic wildfire, which claimed 102 lives in a seaside resort east of Athens, will not happen.
On foreign issues, Mitsotakis called out Turkey for its provocative decision to drill for oil and natural gas inside Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone, saying that his government will not tolerate a policy that questions Cyprus' sovereign rights. Turkey must make some signs of goodwill to Greece and Cyprus, he added.
Mitsotakis, whose party opposed the agreement that led Greece's northern neighbor to change its constitutional name to North Macedonia, said that the treaty does not allow Greece to veto the EU's starting accession negotiations with North Macedonia. He said he would fight any attempts by the neighboring country to monopolize the brand name “Macedonia” or “Macedonian” for its products and that he will aid Greek enterprises based in the northern Greek region of Macedonia to protect their brands.
Asked why, in the tumultuous parliamentary debate of a few days back, he appeared to favor Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos over Prime Minister Tsipras, with whom he clashed fiercely, Mitsotakis replied that, although he disagrees in most things with Tsakalotos, a Marxist economist, he is someone with whom he can have a “quality, civil debate” with.
Mitsotakis added that “with this SYRIZA” there is no prospect of forming a German-style grand coalition government, thereby leaving an opening of a different outcome with a SYRIZA not led by Tsipras.
Tsakalotos, whom many see as a possible successor to Tsipras, although he is 14 years his senior, was quick to reply on his Twitter feed: “I thank Mr Mitsotakis for his kind words. As an Austrian Prime Minister of the 19th century, Prince von Schwarzenberg, said, I will shock him by the depth of my ingratitude.”