ATHENS – With their parties out of the running to win the critical June 17 elections that could see Greece forced out of the Eurozone and back to the drachma, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis, have proposed similar plans that they argue would create a coalition government and bring together the fractured and feuding political parties polls showed would have enough votes to get into Parliament. Both plans presented ideas in broad strokes with few specific points. The plans borrowed heavily from the promises made by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, the anti-austerity champion whose party could win, polls show.
Venizelos, who took over the party this year after former leader Prime Minister George Papandreou resigned following two years of protests, strikes and riots against austerity measures, put forth an eight-point plan he said could form the basis for a unity government. Kouvelis, whose party could create enough swing votes to create a coalition if the results as they had been on May 6 are stalemated, had major seven points in his proposal.
PASOK finished third in the first balloting with only 13.2 percent of the vote and was running third again in the last polls for the June 17 elections, with Democratic Left fighting it out with the KKE Communists for fifth. Seven parties won Parliamentary seats in the first round, including the New Democracy Conservatives, who finished first, the Independent Greeks and the Nazis of Golden Dawn.
New Democracy and PASOK largely supports pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions insisted upon by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) while the other parties, led by SYRIZA, oppose the measures. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said if he wins he will immediately cancel the bailout deals, leading to Troika warnings it would stop the money pipeline, a scenario which could lead Greece into catastrophe. Tsipras said he could make the Troika renegotiate the terms without forcing Greece out of the Eurozone.
The Venizelos plan would create what he called a “national shared responsibility” government that would go after the tax evaders and rich he let escape when he was Finance Minister, doubled income and property taxes, and tax the poor. It also includes:
1. Creating a unity government that will be in place until at least the European Parliament elections of 2014.
2. For all parties in the government to take part in re-negotiations of the most onerous terms of the EU-IMF bailout, although he and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras supported them.
3. Extending the fiscal adjustment period by three years (from 2014 to 2017).
4. Safeguarding the sustainability of Greek public debt.
5. Restarting discussions about structural reforms.
6. Finding consensus for a new, simple and socially just taxation system.
7. Agreeing that Greece needs investment and support for jobs and the real economy.
8. Strengthening the social insurance system.
Venizelos agreed with comments made by Luxembourg Prime Minister and Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who said that austerity measures in Greece have placed a disproportionate burden on the less wealthy members of society. “I don’t see any rich people in Greece crying,” Juncker told a German radio station. Venizelos, desperately seeking out votes, said his party was going through a “transitional phase,” but said he was not resigned to finishing third as previous polls showed him lagging far behind New Democracy and SYRIZA.
After the May 6 deadlock, Samaras and Venizelos asked Kouvelis to join them in forming a coalition, although 68 percent of Greeks voted against New Democracy and PASOK and he declined amid reports he did not want to be branded a traitor to the left. This time, however, he signaled he was more open to joining a coalition, even if it would not have the support of a majority of voters.
“The first thing that has to happen is for a government to be formed,” he said. “The question that dominates and has to be addressed to everyone is: ‘Since there will be no clear majority, who will you work with?’” He added, “There is a question that precedes this, though, ‘Which positions will you agree to govern?.’”
The positions presented by Kouvelis are cleaning up the political system, overhauling Greece’s productive capacity, reorganizing agricultural development, ensuring citizens’ safety, tackling illegal immigration, supporting and broadening social security and unspecified changes in foreign policy. He did not say how any of the ideas would work or be implemented.
- Allowing the assets of government members and senior civil servants who have served since 1974 to be inspected
- Scrapping ministerial and parliamentary immunity
- Reduction in the salaries of Members of Parliament and an end to their pensions.
- Halving of state funding for parties
- Introduction of proportional representation
- Freezing of wage and pension cuts
- Cancelling the law lowering minimum wage
- Restoring collective bargaining contracts
- Increasing the tax-free threshold
- Taxing the Church of Greece’s assets
- Increasing the length of time unemployment benefits are paid.