Syriza would cancel bailout deal, says leader


THE LEADER of Greece’s Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) has said if his party comes to power after repeat elections in a fortnight it will annul the country’s bailout memorandum – a move other parties say will lead Greece out of the euro zone.

“Our first act in government will be to cancel the memorandum,” said Alexis Tsipras, launching his party’s new programme in the capital.

“Voters on June 17th have one choice: bailout austerity or our programme,” he told party members, describing Syriza’s new policy as “one of dignity and hope for the people and the country”.

Claiming “there is no serious economist left who doesn’t believe the bailout deal puts us on autopilot to destruction”, Mr Tsipras said that after cancelling the memorandum, a Syriza government would renege on the country’s “odious” debt and seek to renegotiate its loan commitments.

“If you change the dose of a lethal medicine, the patient will still die,” he said, condemning memorandum-fuelled austerity.

Among Syriza’s proposals is the restoration of the minimum monthly wage from €586 to €751, the extension of unemployment benefit from one to two years and the easing of VAT on essential foodstuffs.

The party also wants to reverse the country’s privatisation programme and freeze wage and pension cuts due to come into force this month.

The measures, Mr Tsipras said, would be financed by bringing taxation levels into line with EU averages over the next four years which would involve increasing the tax share of the wealthy and high earners.

Mr Tsipras, who turns 38 next month, denounced what he termed attempts by New Democracy and Pasok to blackmail and instil fear among the electorate as the “swan song of those who advocate a scorched earth policy”.

As he delivered the programme, hundreds of party supporters at one stage chanted that “the time of left has come”.

In one opinion poll yesterday Syriza was at 31.5 per cent, giving it an unprecedented six-point lead over conservative New Democracy.

On the basis of the Public Issue/Kathimerini poll, Mr Tsipras’s party could expect to take up to 134 seats in the 300-member parliament, meaning it could enter government as part of a coalition.

But one potential partner, the moderate Democratic Left, said that the new Syriza programme “essentially opens the door for the return of the drachma”.

The reaction from socialist Pasok, another potential partner, was similarly forthright.

“Syriza’s arrogant and blind ‘memorandum or us’ dilemma is leading society to division and to a Greece outside of Europe,” party leader Evangelos Venizelos said.

Two other polls, by contrast, put New Democracy ahead by between 2.3 and 2.5 points.

Launching its latest economic programme on Thursday, its leader said it would halt the rise in unemployment by the end of this year.

“We can create 150,000 jobs in the first six months [of 2013]. We are talking about the private sector. I will also seek investment throughout the world,” Antonis Samaras announced.