Parliament last night passed the 2018 budget with the votes of Syriza-ANEL plus that of independent MP Theodora Megaloeconomou, who had defected from the small Centrists’ Union party months ago.
But for those with the stamina to focus on what was said in the chamber saw Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis two entirely different pictures of Greece, with the PM depicting a country ready for economic take-off and recovery and Mitsotakis portraying a disaster zone ravaged by Syriza and reeling under the poor governance of the last three years.
Tsipras said the 2018 budget is the last passed under the weight of bailout memorandums, and that it signals an exit from the crisis after eight years of unbearable austerity.
Mitsotakis, whose major criticism of the government was that it has overtaxed in every sector, saddling the taxpayer with 5.1 billion euros in new taxes, said that the government’s narrative about a clean exit from bailout supervision in August is entirely false and misleading, as the government has in essence already passed a fourth memorandum with painful austerity measures for the coming years, including pension cuts and a major cut in the tax-free limit.
He also stressed the government’s commitment to large primary surpluses until 2022.
The two party leaders also clashed over the timing of the next elections, as many have speculated that the recent government handouts signal the government’s intention to hold snap election so as to cut its losses from the latest spate of austerity measures.
Tsipras said elections will be held in 2019 when his term ends, and Mitsotakis suggested that the government will be toppled in 2018.
Another dispute between the two top parties was over who was responsible for the fall of the Samaras government before the January, 2015 elections, with Syriza cadres such as Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis claiming that creditors left Samaras out to dry and effectively toppled him by withholding support, and Mitsotakis insisting that Syriza’s refusal to consent on a presidential candidate led to a constitutionally mandated dissolution of parliament.
Tsipras said the electorate voted New Democracy out of office because it wanted to rid the country of the very political parties that pillaged it.