Parties ratchet up campaigns as elections loom

With less than two weeks to go until critical snap elections, political parties are to ratchet up their rhetoric following a weekend of vehement campaigning that included Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pledging a series of tax cuts as part of a “roadmap for a post-bailout Greece.”

Samaras pledged tax cuts in a speech before New Democracy cadres on Saturday in Athens, adding that there will be no further reductions to pensions and salaries. He promised to scale back a unified property tax (ENFIA) as of this year, to introduce a flat corporate tax rate of 15 percent and to revoke pension and benefit cuts for ethnic Greeks from the Soviet Union and Black Sea region. He envisaged the creation of 770,000 jobs by boosting growth in a number of sectors, adding that primary residences would be protected and heralding incentives for the repatriation of funds removed from Greece during the crisis years. “Now we are entering a growth period and it is time for increases,” Samaras said, noting that any boosts will be properly priced and will not unbalance the budget. He added that Greece could “exit the memorandum a year before schedule.”

Samaras also lashed out at leftist SYRIZA, noting that it aspired to a “Soviet-style economy” and was making pledges it could not keep. “When someone promises you everything… without telling you how he will pay for it, he will take it back with interest,” he said.

For his part, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras campaigned in the Peloponnese, where he met farmers and pledged to protect their interests. Tsipras accused Samaras of trying to scare Greeks, adding that continuing austerity policies would turn Greece into a “colony” and stressing the need for “a break from the past.”

As campaigning intensifies, concern about the financial fallout is growing. The withdrawal of more than 3 billion euros from Greek banks in recent weeks has fueled talk that lenders will need liquidity assistance. Meanwhile, although Berlin has denied that it is bracing for a possible Greek eurozone exit, Kathimerini understands the German Finance Ministry has sought data from organizations that can assess the impact of such a scenario on Germany’s economy.