Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis clashed in Parliament on Tuesday ahead of a vote to revoke planned budget cuts that had been slated for January, trading barbs on economic policy as well as Greece’s contentious name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
The political polarization which has intensified in recent weeks amid heightened speculation about early elections escalated on Tuesday, with Tsipras pointing to “the deep ideological and political lines” separating the government and ND.
Claiming that his government had saved pensioners from further cuts and secured increases for 620,000 retirees this year, Tsipras accused Mitsotakis of proposing a “Pinochet-style pension system,” referring to the late Chilean dictator’s privatized pension scheme.
Tsipras added that Mitsotakis had not only been counting on scoring political points from the pension cuts that had been due to come into effect in January but that he ideologically backed those measures.
Mitsotakis hit back, accusing Tsipras of hypocrisy and of “wearing the mask of the apparent philanthropist so you can share out tips to citizens from their own income that you have been usurping.” As for the vote to revoke the planned pensions reductions, Mitsotakis remarked bluntly, “You signed for their reduction, not us.”
The ND leader warned that the country is at risk of “begging” for more European aid due to the government’s economic policy and called for snap polls. “You’re finished, understand that! Don’t keep dragging the country along,” he said.
Mitsotakis also accused the government of “trading the non-cutting of pensions for the Macedonia [deal],” prompting an angry retort from Tsipras, who said he was “furious” that the ND leader could say such a thing in Parliament.
As regards the so-called Prespes deal, Tsipras indicated that both FYROM’s constitutional amendments and the statements of its ruling officials should reflect the spirit of the agreement.
“If this doesn’t happen, neither the deal will move forward nor the neighboring country’s accession to international organizations,” he said. His comments followed contentious references by FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to a “Macedonian” minority and language, seen in Greece as reflecting irredentist ambitions over the northern Greek region of Macedonia.
Tsipras’s coalition partner Panos Kammenos, who is defense minister and also leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), repeated that his party would withdraw its support from the government if the Prespes deal comes to Parliament.
“We don’t agree with the use of the term ‘Macedonia,’” he said. “If the time comes for our paths to part, they will part,” he said, referring to leftist SYRIZA.
He declared, however, that “the Prespes agreement has died as Zaev continually negates it with his statements” while also expressing satisfaction with Tsipras’s claim that he will not accept different interpretations of the deal.