Greek premier promises tax cuts, security

In the final straight of campaigning ahead of critical snap elections on Sunday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday promised tax cuts and cast New Democracy as the safe choice for Greece opposite an inconsistent SYRIZA.

In a speech before the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry last night, Samaras said an ND administration would gradually reduce the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 25 percent and scale back a unified property tax (ENFIA), starting with a 7 percent cut this year. He lashed out at SYRIZA for a lack of clarity on tax pledges – he claimed the leftists would impose a “barrage of taxes” despite their claims to the contrary – and slammed the party’s plans to rehire sacked civil servants and reverse privatizations.

SYRIZA officials, for their part, insisted the party would introduce a fair tax system and crack down on large-scale evaders along with corruption.

Meanwhile, amid speculation about potential alliances, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos told Italian newspaper La Stampa he could work with SYRIZA’s leader. “Tsipras is like Harry Potter but if necessary we will cooperate with them,” he said.

Rhetoric sharpened in both the SYRIZA and New Democracy camps as the latest opinion poll, carried out by the University of Macedonia for Skai, showed the leftists widening their lead over ND to 5.5 points, garnering 33.5 percent compared to 27 percent for ND. To Potami ranks third with 7.5 percent followed by Golden Dawn and the Communist Party (KKE) with 5.5 percent each.

As SYRIZA pushes its anti-austerity agenda while insisting that Greece’s position in the eurozone and solvency are not under threat, the country’s international creditors issued fresh warnings.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped Greeks would “vote responsibly” and that the principle of “solidarity in exchange for reforms” would apply, referring to the insistence of creditors that Greek authorities pursue a tough economic program in exchange for rescue loans.

European Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici struck a similar tone on Monday, telling a seminar at the Bruegel economic think tank that eurozone integrity is not at threat. “We don’t fear what will happen in the Greek elections on Sunday. We are prepared for all kinds of scenarios in Greece,” he said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, for his part, stressed that any new government in Greece “will have to respect commitments already made and stay the course of reform and fiscal responsibility.”

Meanwhile the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, warned of “consequences” if European countries seek to restructure their debts – a stated priority of leftist SYRIZA. “As a principle, collective endeavors are welcome but at the same time a debt is a debt and it is a contract,” Lagarde told The Irish Times in an interview when questioned about SYRIZA’s calls for a European debt conference. “Defaulting, restructuring, changing the terms has consequences on the signature and the confidence in the signature,” Lagarde said.