Greek elections are being held on Sunday, 7 July, and if opinion polls published in the run-up prove true then the conservative New Democracy appears set for a landslide victory.
Neos Kosmos decided to put the two main rivals to the crash test:
At the age of 40, Alexis Tsipras became the youngest-serving Prime Minister in 2015. Though originally an outspoken critic of austerity policies implemented during the crisis, he became the leader whose tenure has been marked with the worst-yet belt-tightening measures in Greece. As implementer of the third bailout in Greece (2015-2018), he saw his popularity drop and was viewed as the ‘liar’ that promised to tear up the bailout and even held a referendum where he received the people’s mandate to reject it before doing the exact opposite. He rose to prominence from the student occupation movement and joined the Communist Youth of Greece in the late 1980s. He studied civil engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, before undertaking post-graduate studies in urban and regional planning. He worked as a civil engineer in the construction industry in Greece. In 1999, he served as the secretary of the Synaspismos (Coalition of the Left) Youth before taking the same role at the Political Secretariat. He unsuccessfully ran as Mayor of Athens in 2006, and was elected as leader of SYRIZA in 2008. In 2015, he swept in with promises of bringing a fresh air to Greek politics and was named by TIME magazine as one of the most 100 most influential people globally, however his capitulation on his promises and ideals, lowering of pensions as well as his government’s imposition of capital controls have left the average Greek taxpayer disgruntled. A self-described atheist who never wears a tie, he named one of his kids after Che Guevara and lives with his partner Peristera “Betty” Baziana, an electrical and computer engineer and lecturer appointed during her husband’s tenure.
The 50-year-old reformist lawmaker is a scion of one of Greece’s most influential political families. He is the son of former prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis who served from 1990-1993, and younger brother of former foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis who served from 2006-2009. He studied at ivy league universities, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies and was the recipient of the Hoopes and Tocqueville prizes before getting a Master’s degree in International Relations from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He is an ex-banker with employment at business consulting firms. Politically, he is a moderate liberal and a critic of trade union practices and state waste. From 2013-2015, he served as minister for administrative reform and e-governance under Greek PM Antonis Samaras and orchestrated the lay-off of thousands of public servants though he now promises to grow public sector jobs. He has described himself as “an ardent defender of a small and efficient state, education reform, the fight against red-tape and monopolistic practices that impede development and the fight against partisanship and cronyism in government”. In 2007, he was allegedly involved in the Siemens Greek bribery scandal though he has repeatedly denied involvement and no indication of guilt has been proven though the trial is still pending. He is married to Mareva Gaabowski and has three children. He speaks Greek, English, French and German.
SYRIZA has been criticised of making a U-turn on its promises regarding ‘tearing out the bailouts’. However, it should be pointed out that ND had also initially opposed the country’s international bailouts, but after winning a parliamentary election in 2012 and forming a coalition with the socialist PASOK party to bring in austerity and unpopular reforms demanded by the country’s international lenders.
It seems that voters have short memories however, and the glory days of SYRIZA are well and truly. In 2015, the party catapulted to power for the first time bringing with it hopes of change and breaking the two-tiered power held by socialist PASOK and the conservative ND party. As its term progressed and socialist PASOK members entered the fray the party was labelled the new PASOK and lost a great deal of its credibility. Now, what’s old is new again as ND becomes the harbinger of hope. Created in 1974, it is 30 years older than its rival and has more experience as far as old-school politics are concerned. After being disgraced internationally, Greeks are looking to the establishment to regain some of their lost credibility.
SYRIZA promises 500,000 new jobs in the next four years, with 25,000 in the public sector, to help combat the 18.5 per cent unemployment rate. The monthly minimum wage would also be lifted by 7.5 per cent in 2020 and another 7.5 per cent in 2021. Like the ND, SYRIZA will also cut the joint property ENFIA tax by 30 per cent in 2020, and as much as 50 per cent for small-to-medium-sized property holdings (though it’s the same tax it had once promised to eliminate altogether). Income tax would be lowered from 22 per cent to 20 per cent, and the solidarity tax would be slashed altogether for those earning under 20,000 euros per annum. Income tax for those living on small islands with populations of under 3,100 people would be lowered as would property tax on those with islands of less than 1,000 inhabitants. Like ND, corporate tax would be lowered to 25 per cent from 28 per cent and VAT would drop from 13 to 11 per cent on foodstuffs.
The party comes with the mantra of lower taxes and higher wages, while maintaining primary budget surpluses of 3.5 per cent of the GDP up to 2022 in accordance with lenders’ demand. It’s the same promise of ‘lefta yparhoun’ (‘there’s money’), coined by socialist PASOK leader George Papandreou just before the greatest period of austerity Greece has ever known. The party, however, states that it can achieve its goals by planning incentives for businesses to offer additional benefits to workers (eg free transport to work, more insurance benefits etc) which would be made viable by cutting corporate tax from 28 per cent to 20 per cent over the next two years and slashing the tax rate on dividends to 5 per cent from the current 10 per cent. For the average Greek, the minimum wage would rise to from the current 650 euros per month to 730 euros per month in three years, and taxpayers would also have more buying power as the VAT taxes are cut from 24 and 13 per cent to 22 and 11 per cent. The supplementary solidarity tax – once a one-off imposition that became permanent – would also be cut. Another one-off tax that became permanent was the joint property ENFIA tax that ND promises to reduce by 30 per cent in two years, while the capital gains tax on real estate would also be ended. And just for good measure, in an effort to address the demographic problem, the party promises to give a 2,000-euro handout for every newborn.
The most recent polls are pointing to a clear win for the opposition New Democracy party. According to MRB poll published by newspaper Ta Nea, ND is set to win the elections close to an absolute majority ranging between 35.4 and-40.4 per cent. SYRIZA was seen garnering a maximum of 31.5 per cent of the votes while none of the smaller parties were projected to get more than 10 per cent.
Private television channel ANT1 ran another poll which also predicts ND will get a 10.5 per cent lead over SYRIZA, however with a lower percentage at 35.1.
The latest poll conducted by Metron Analysis on behalf of Alpha TV sees the current opposition securing an absolute majority claiming 155 seats in the Greek parliament. ND is expected to with a 9.4 points difference.
The seven parties that according to Metron Analysis will manage to secure a spot in Parliament are ND at 38.6 per cent, SYRIZA at 29.2 per cent, KINAL at 7.5 per cent, KKE at 5.2 per cent, Greek Solution with 3.4 per cent and DiEM25 with 4.5 per cent.
Meanwhile, polling firm MARC projected that New Democracy would win 156 seats in Parliament, followed by Syriza with 75, KINAL with 22, the KKE with 16, DiEM25 with 11, the far-right Golden Dawn with 10, and Greek Solution with 10.