Handout spree ahead of polls

Handout spree ahead of polls

With his eye on possible early national elections as well as local and European Parliament polls in May, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday announced yet more handouts during a visit to the southeastern Aegean island of Kalymnos. 

More specifically, he announced a pilot program of fuel subsidies to small and remote islands that will run from January 1 until 2021 and carry a price tag of 570 million euros. 

Two days earlier, Tsipras had announced an emergency benefit totaling 42 million euros for 40,000-45,000 livestock breeders, while he later raised the issue of German war reparations during a tour of Achaia in the northern Peloponnese. 

He is slated to address a SYRIZA rally in Thessaloniki on December 14, to coincide with a speech by conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the opening day of New Democracy’s party congress. 

The choice of Thessaloniki as a location for his speech also signifies an effort to minimize the damage to the government stemming from the name deal signed with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which is highly unpopular in the northern port city. 

Moreover, in the last two weeks, Tsipras has announced a reduction in the social insurance contributions of some 250,000 non-salaried workers and the cuts to the highly unpopular ENFIA property tax. 

Meanwhile, Greece’s first post-bailout budget is being touted by the government as a harbinger of positive news for the country’s disillusioned electorate as it includes a rise in the minimum wage, which is expected to go ahead as early as January. 

The leftist leader’s moves come amid reports that procedures are being expedited to bring the Macedonia name deal for ratification – essentially spelling the end of the coalition government, given that junior partner, Independent Greeks (ANEL), has made clear that it will step down once the agreement goes to Parliament. 

Observers reckon that, armored with this batch of measures, Tsipras may consider snap elections even before May if the government finds itself on the back foot due to the name deal and the controversy over changes to church-state relations.

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