Prime Minister Antonis Samaras warned on Saturday that Greece would be commiting “political suicide” and risking a “return to chaos” if it fails to elect a new president early next year and has to hold early national elections instead.
Samaras’s speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) focused on three main themes: Greece’s economic recovery, tax cuts and the danger of failing to elect a successor to President Karolos Papoulias in March. Samaras used the presidential issue as a platform for an attack on SYRIZA, which he accused of craving instability.
“Greece is gradually finding its feet… but there are those who would do whatever they can so nothing changes,” the prime minister said in reference to the opposition party. “They are not even afraid to play with the Constitution.
“They failed to bring down the government from the sidewalks so now they will try with the presidential election.”
Samaras insisted that a growing number of people believe the government’s candidate will be able to attract the minimum number of 180 votes needed in Parliament to be elected. Nevertheless, he argued that a failure to achieve this target would be disastrous for Greece.
“An early trip to the ballot box would be political suicide,” said Samaras, describing as “dangerous” those who “want to lead the country into the worst possible situation at the worst possible moment.”
“Who wants to take this risk? And to achieve what? A return to chaos?”
Samaras said that Greece should seek to be a beacon of stability when so many countries in the wider region are suffering serious problems. “In Greece, which is so close to the volcano, instead of protecting our stability, safeguarding the security offered by the European Union and NATO, are we going to risk elections, a new round of instability and new friction with our partners?”
The prime minister also argued that with the first signs of growth emerging, Greece’s public debt would soon be deemed sustainable.
“Although debt is still high, it has started to ease marginally and the drop will soon be even greater when measured against gross domestic product,” he said.
Samaras also pledged to cut the cost of electricity for businesses and to create, with EU backing, a special economic zone in Thessaloniki to help keep firms from moving to neighboring Balkan countries, where labor costs and overheads are cheaper.
The New Democracy leader also announced significant taxation plans. First on the list was his declaration that the consumption tax on heating oil would be reduced by 30 percent. He said the heating fuel benefit would remain in place, which should mean that those receiving the handout this winter pay no more than around a euro per liter for their fuel.
The prime minister also pledged that the unified property tax (ENFIA) and solidarity tax on incomes would be reduced. More details are expected in the 2015 national budget, which is due to be drafted over the next few weeks. He further indicated that taxpayers owing money to the state would be granted more installments in which to pay it back. The latter is still being discussed by the Greek government and the troika, with the former aiming for an agreement on 72 to 100 installments.
Samaras said that it his ultimate aim to reduce the top income tax rate to 32 percent and for business to pay no more than 15 percent.