SYRIZA appeared to perform a U-turn Tuesday on the issue of value-added tax for private education as it announced that it would repeal the measure if it is re-elected.
The leftist party called on the caretaker government to suspend the 23 percent VAT rate that private schools and tuition centers are expected to charge from this month. SYRIZA described the scrapping of the levy as the “main priority for thousands of households.”
More than 200,000 people have signed a petition calling for the tax, which would also affect ordinary Greeks who send their children to cramming schools, not to apply.
European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt said Tuesday that Brussels had not asked for the tax, which is expected to raise 350 million euros by the end of next year. SYRIZA insisted in its statement that Greece’s lenders were to blame for the unpopular measure.
In response to criticism from New Democracy about the tax, SYRIZA argued that the conservatives had voted for it in a raft of measures on July 15. The issue is certain to feature in the next few days of the campaign and possibly in a televised debate being lined up.
Greeks may witness the first televised general election debate between party leaders for the first time in six years later this month as SYRIZA and New Democracy appear to have reached a tentative agreement.
At a meeting Tuesday between the two parties’ spokeswomen, Olga Gerovasili (SYRIZA) and Penelope Gavra (New Democracy), it was decided that there would be two debates. The first is seen taking place on September 10 and involving all the party leaders, while the second would be just between Tsipras and Meimarakis four days later.
It is not certain that these will be the dates as PASOK objected to the first debate being on September 10 because party leader Fofi Gennimata has a prior engagement. The Socialists asked for the debate to be held a day earlier, on September 9.
The Communist Party indicated it would not take part in the event, while Golden Dawn demanded that its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, be invited to the debate. The neo-Nazi party threatened to hold a large protest outside the TV studio if Michaloliakos is not given a place.