Not so long ago the staunchly leftwing Athens neighbourhood of Petroupolis would have been hostile territory for Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
But when the leader of the centre-right New Democracy party campaigned in Petroupolis last week, he found enough support to be confident heading into Greece’s July 7 election.
“I’ve decided to take a chance on ND,” said Stamatis, a 28-year-old computer technician, who voted for prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his leftist Syriza party in 2015. “They promised to roll back austerity — but what we got was four more tough years and a slew of tax increases.”
Nektaria, 23, said she “wants to believe” the conservatives can deliver a better standard of living. “My parents don’t share my opinion but I think ND will try harder than Syriza did,” she said as she pushed her two-year-old daughter in a stroller.
After five years of confrontational politics by Syriza and Mr Tsipras — including brinkmanship with the EU and a stand-off with bailout creditors in 2015 that pushed Greece close to a disorderly exit from the euro — Mr Mitsotakis is betting that the country is ready for a different approach.
His party holds an 8 to 10 percentage point lead in opinion polls, with a new-found appeal based on promises of tax cuts, after a four-year squeeze on middle-class incomes, and the prospect of new full-time jobs that could slow the pace of emigration by skilled young Greeks. Mr Mitsotakis pledges “immediate” measures to make Greece more attractive to foreign investors and accelerate growth.
“I think we’re on a strong course for change,” said the opposition leader as he spoke in the heart of Petroupolis. “Give us a mandate and we’ll make Greece a prosperous, calmer and less politicised place.”
People are fed up with economic crisis and want to move on . . . They’re looking to us to provide hope for the future
Greece emerged from its third international bailout last year but the economy is recovering more slowly than forecast by the country’s creditors, the EU and the IMF, while structural reforms agreed by Syriza are incomplete.
Syriza’s disastrous collapse at last month’s European Parliament elections, finishing 9.3 points behind ND, prompted Mr Tsipras to call a snap general election three months before his government’s term runs out. But the prime minister’s hopes that an early poll would help to minimise Syriza’s losses are fading as the conservatives consolidate their lead.
“People are fed up with economic crisis and want to move on . . . They’re looking to us to provide hope for the future,” said Mr Mitsotakis, a US-educated former McKinsey consultant.
One Athens pollster said ND was running a low-key campaign that “plays to an electorate that wants stability and reassurance about the post-bailout period . . . Mitsotakis is positive but he’s not over-promising”.
Opinion polls forecast that ND will win an outright majority in the 300-member parliament with between 154 and 164 seats, depending on how many small parties can get above the 3.5 per cent of the vote threshold for entering parliament.
Until recently Mr Mitsotakis, the son of a former centrist prime minister, cut an awkward figure at meet-and-greet events. While he won the party leadership in 2016 in a nationwide ballot of grassroots conservative supporters, he lacked Mr Tsipras’ easy-going way with voters.
He was an easy target for Mr Tsipras to attack as a scion of the corrupt political elite blamed for the country’s collapse into bankruptcy a decade ago. And Mr Mitsotakis’s stint as minister for administrative reform in 2013-14, with a brief from Greece’s creditors to fire several thousand civil servants and introduce regular performance evaluations, meant he was viewed with suspicion by many public sector workers.
But last month’s European election win showed that Mr Mitsotakis’s efforts to make ND electable again are paying off. “He’s enjoying this campaign and it makes a big difference to how he comes across,” said one aide.
Meeting shop owners and local residents in Petroupolis, Mr Mitsotakis was enthusiastic about plans to improve transport links and reduce air pollution from a nearby landfill. “We can’t leave a neighbourhood of 70,000 people feeling isolated because they don’t have a metro station,” he said.
Mr Mitsotakis says Greece’s sluggish recovery can be turned into sustained growth by removing bureaucratic obstacles to investment, cutting taxes and overhauling the education system.
He promises to create more than 250,000 full-time jobs and says a priority would be to revive a €8bn investment project led by Greek and Gulf investors to redevelop the coastal site of the former Athens international airport. The project stalled three years ago amid objections from several state agencies, reflecting Syriza’s ideological reluctance to promote large-scale private investment.
“The mood has changed in the past six months, the [economic] environment is more stable and there’s slightly more optimism. I think we may be ready for an overall recovery,” he said.
Mr Mitsotakis has not given details of how much his sweeping tax cuts would cost the budget, but he made clear ND intends to defuse creditors’ fears they would undermine Greece’s commitment to a 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product primary surplus, before debt servicing, until 2022.
The victory of ND in the European elections was welcomed by international capital markets: yields on 10-year Greek bonds fell to an all-time low.
But while markets have already discounted ND’s return to government, potential investors in the real economy are still sitting on the sidelines.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand from both domestic and foreign companies,” said Miranda Xafa, a former IMF economist and senior scholar at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. “But they want to see the details of ND’s programme before making a commitment.”
- KKR wins race to buy German payments group for €600m 34 views | posted on August 4, 2019 | under Finance
- WeWork tests tolerance for its ‘gov-lite’ structure 14 views | posted on August 15, 2019 | under Finance
- Divi theme Complete eCommerce WordPress Website Build Tutorial 8 views | posted on July 25, 2019 | under Videos
- Venezuela sanctions order leaves Citgo’s future in doubt 8 views | posted on August 12, 2019 | under Finance
- BMO 1st Art! Competition Recognizes Fresh Perspectives from Emerging Canadian Artists 7 views | posted on August 12, 2019 | under Finance