AFPATHENS (AFP-Jiji) — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday warned that the country risks a return to the “dark days” of austerity if his party loses a snap election on Sunday.
As a trio of new opinion polls handed a clear victory to the opposition conservative party, the 44-year-old premier insisted that an eleventh-hour upset remained possible.
“The Greek people must not only vote, they must avert a theft of their sacrifices, a great crime against future generations,” Tsipras told a large crowd on Athens’ central Syntagma square.
“Don’t let them take away your dreams, your lives, your dignity,” he said, his sweat-stained shirt clinging to his torso.
The polls have consistently predicted that the conservative New Democracy party of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a former banker and scion of a leading Greek political family, will win an absolute majority in Sunday’s legislative elections.
Three years after taking over the leadership of New Democracy, once headed by his father, the 51-year-old Harvard graduate and former McKinsey consultant has pledged to create “better” jobs through growth, foreign investment and tax cuts and to “steamroll” obstacles to business.
The latest surveys show New Democracy ahead by between nine and 11 points.
Supporters of Tsipras’ leftist Syriza party say that his election in 2015 represented a break with a longstanding Greek tradition of family-dominated politics.
“For the first time we had a politician than didn’t steal and he will be beaten by an old party who brought us to the crisis. This makes me sad,” Angeliki, a 65-year-old pensioner, told AFP.
Mitsotakis, son of a former prime minister, was part of a crisis government that raised taxes and slashed pensions in 2012-2014 under pressure from Greece’s bailout creditors.
Tsipras wondered aloud on Friday whether voters should “hand back the wheel to those who drove us into a ravine.”
Elected with promises to ditch unpopular austerity, Tsipras within months signed onto another bailout to prevent Greece from crashing out of the euro.
He managed to curb unemployment, coax some growth out of the struggling economy and hand out benefits to Greece’s poorest, but at the expense of higher taxes for the middle class.
In border areas, there has also been anger towards a controversial name deal with North Macedonia, and the slow processing of tens of thousands of asylum seekers from Asia and Africa.
“Alexis Tsipras brought Greece out of the crisis through really hard conditions. Now it’s time to give him a second chance to implement all the measures that will help to rebuild a social state,” said Antonis Athanassiadis, a 22-year-old student.