The jig is up


Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s recent public appearances are a throwback to September 2014. Speaking at the Thessaloniki International Fair as leader of SYRIZA opposition four years ago, Tsipras had promised everything to everyone, including that he would tear up Greece’s bailout agreement, scrap the ENFIA property tax, restore holiday bonuses and raise the minimum wage. A vote for SYRIZA, the message was, would mean an effortless return to Greece’s so-called “lobster spaghetti era.”

Power-thirsty Tsipras cooperated with the Democratic Left (DIMAR) party of Fotis Kouvelis to block the election of the government’s presidential candidate, thereby triggering snap elections. As a result, he stopped the Greek economy, which had just entered a growth phase, from exiting the bailout programs.

Instead, Tsipras guided Greece into a third bailout program and a three-year recession – and it all came with a price tag of around 100 billion euros.

Tsipras is now repeating the same lies – with frills. After giving into longstanding demands from the Church of Greece for its disputed land not to be confiscated (that is land that would soon come under state control under the land registry) and for the state to continue covering the cost of clerics’ salaries, Tsipras got not just the blessing of Archbishop Ieronymos (which is crucial ahead of elections next year) but also the green light to take priests off the civil servants’ register. The day after, the PM said that moving some 10,000 clerics off the state payroll would free up space for another 10,000 hirings in the public sector. He also promised to retroactively return to the country’s pensioners the money they have lost as a result of repeated cuts. Tsipras further attacked conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, suggesting that he aspired to introduce a Pinochet-inspired pension system if elected.

The leftist prime minister has switched the machine of impossible handouts back on, hoping to prevent New Democracy from forming a majority government and from garnering the 180 votes needed to elect Greece’s next president. His aim is to block the 2020 presidential election and once more trigger snap elections, this time under the provisions of a simple proportional representation system.

The fact is that the economy is struggling and there is no money to hire more people in the public sector. In fact, in order to achieve the budget surpluses agreed with the country’s foreign lenders (3.5 percent of GDP until 2022 and 2.2 percent of GDP until 2060), Tsipras has to take money away from the public investment program. But this time voters appear to have learned their lesson. The jig is up.