Heated Greek TV debate before elections

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and leaders of other five political parties represented in parliament crossed swords this week during a televised debate ahead of the May 21 general elections.

The three-hour debate, hosted by the Greek national broadcaster ERT, was the only time for the leaders to appear in the same live TV debate to present their parties’ positions on key issues before the polling day.

The debate covered issues relating to economy, development and jobs, foreign policy and defense, health, education, environment, and energy, etc.

Outlining his ruling conservative New Democracy party’s economic program, Mitsotakis pledged further increases of wages, lower taxes and further support measures for households to cope with the inflationary pressures.

“My central pledge for the second term (in office) is the increase of minimum monthly wage to 950 euros (1,043 U.S. dollars) and average salary to 1,500 euros … Inflation will drop, but wage increases will be permanent,” he said.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the main opposition party, SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance, promised “realistic” economic policies that will be painful for large businesses who earned excess profits during the latest crises, but will benefit the masses. “If we don’t make radical changes, there will be no middle class in four years,” he said.

Nikos Androulakis, president of the PASOK-KINAL (Panhellenic Socialist Movement-Movement for Change) party, said that the goal is to achieve stability with economic perspective to improve Greeks’ living standards.

Dimitris Koutsoumpas, general secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Yanis Varoufakis, secretary of the leftist MeRA25 party, and Kyriakos Velopoulos, president of the Right-wing Elliniki Lysi (Greek Solution) party, also participated in the debate.

New Democracy party holds a lead over SYRIZA in all recent opinion polls. However, most political analysts estimate that due to the way the Greek electoral system works, it will be difficult to secure a parliamentary majority in the first ballot.

If a second round of elections is required, it will take place at the beginning of July at the latest, Mitsotakis has said.

In that election, the system will revert to semi-proportional representation, with a sliding scale seat bonus, increasing the chances of a party to win outright.

Under that semi-proportional system, the winning party is awarded a bonus of 20 seats outright if it gets at least 25 percent of the vote, and can get up to 50 seats if it gets about 40 percent of the vote. ■


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