Tsipras Faces Fight as Greek Opposition Won't Back New MeasuresBy and
Mitsotakis says budget squeeze due to government incompetence
New Democracy supports structural reforms, he tells Bloomberg
Greece’s main opposition party has a clear message for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: Don’t count on us to bail out your government.
The country needs new elections, and the New Democracy party will vote against the “excessive” fiscal measures demanded by creditors for 2019 and 2020, its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a Bloomberg TV interview on Thursday.
“These fiscal measures are the cost that Greece unfortunately has to pay for the incompetence of this government,” he said. “Mr Tsipras has brought us into this mess. He’s been claiming that he has a solid parliamentary majority so it’s up to him to deliver.”
Tsipras’s government has been locked in talks with officials representing the euro-area and International Monetary Fund -- Greece’s creditors -- trying to agree on a package of measures and economic reforms the government needs to undertake for a bailout review to unlock more loans. Once a deal is reached, the package will need approval from the country’s 300-seat parliament, where Tsipras’s governing coalition has a majority of just three.
Mitsotakis’s stance means that if Tsipras faces a rebellion from his own lawmakers, he can’t rely on a lifeline from the opposition like he did when passing the country’s third bailout in August 2015. Greece needs elections so it gets a better government that “assumes the true ownership of the necessary reforms to drag Greece out of this mess,” according to Mitsotakis, 49, whose father led the country in the early 1990s.
Mitsotakis, who had stints working at Chase Investment Bank and McKinsey & Co. before entering politics, has been leading in Greek opinion polls since shortly after assuming his party’s leadership at the start of last year. New Democracy’s lead has widened to double digits in many recent surveys.
“I don’t have a way to force an early election,” he said in the interview in Brussels, where he was attending a meeting of leaders from the grouping of conservative European Union political parties. “However, I’m convinced that if it were to happen we would win.”
New Democracy will put forward an aggressive reform program and shy away from promises it can’t keep, according to Mitsotakis. It will create a competitive economy with lower taxes, and pursue privatizations, which send a signal that “Greece is open for business,” he said.
On the fiscal front, the party is trying to convince creditors that lower primary budget surplus targets are needed, he said. While there’s still fat in the public sector, there’s “no doubt that Greece needs lower taxes,” according to Mitsotakis.
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“Even if the second review is completed, Greece will drag its feet,” he said. “There is no confidence to attract foreign investment because we have a government that is in this peculiar situation. It has to implement a liberal reform program that it does not believe in.”
— With assistance by Sotiris Nikas, and Nikos Chrysoloras