Athens Digest 10.06.2019

• Poll predicts majority conservative gov’t in six party House

• PM meets President today to ask for dissolution of Parliament and July 7 natinal elections

• MinFin Tsakalotos: Assessment that handouts threaten surplus is “clearly wrong’

• “Current government has already mortgaged the 2019 public investments program,” tells Athens Digest Harry Theocharis, ex public revenue secretary

• Former coalition partner ANEL drops out of elections

# Ahead of next month’s national elections, main opposition New Democracy has an average lead of 10.2 points over ruling SYRIZA, according to a poll on Friday which estimated the formation of a majority government for the conservatives in a six-party Parliament. The poll conducted by Metron Analysis, the first since last month’s European elections, gave ND an estimated average of 39.8-percent against 29.6 for SYRIZA. Center-left KINAL were in third with an average of 7.7-percent, ahead of communist KKE (4.8-percent), extreme-right Golden Dawn  (4.7-percent) and MeRA25 of former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (3.5-percent). According to these results, ND will have 160 seats, almost double that of SYRIZA with 82, ahead of  KINAL (22), KKE and Golden Dawn (13 each) and MeRA25 (10).
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet President Prokopios Pavlopoulos today and ask for the dissolution of parliament and national elections (July 7).

# Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has dismissed as “clearly wrong’ the assessment in last week’s third enhanced surveillance report that the government’s recent handouts will pose a threat to Greece’s agreed primary surplus targets. In an interview to Open TV on Thursday night, Tsakalotos said that over the last three years the institutions always insisted that Greece would not meet its targets.”When at the end of the year we overshot surplus targets they accepted it and we could give social dividends,” he said.  He also slammed as “nonsense” ESM Managing Director Klaus Regling’s claim last week that the tactics of former finance minister Yannis Varoufakis cost Greece EUR100 billion, adding that if Regling were his student… he would “fail him.”

# Speaking to the Athens Digest, New Democracy lawmaker Harry Theocharis – a former general secretary for public revenues – insisted on the need for frontloaded measures such as the passing of bills in Parliament that will send a growth-friendly message. “What we must do now is to immediately pass bills in Parliament that will send a growth-friendly message in all directions. Unfortunately, with regard to the 2019 budget, the current government has already mortgaged the public investments program. There will, essentially, be space to move as of 2020,” he said.

# Ruling SYRIZA’ right wing former coalition partner, the Independent Greeks (ANEL) will not take part in next month’s national elections, according to its leader Panos Kammenos. The decision was taken by the party’s national council after its battering in last month’s European election, where it garnered just 0.8-percent of the vote – significantly lower than the 3.46 percent it tallied in the 2014 EU elections. The decision follows that of the centrist To Potami party not to take part after it, too, failed to meet expectations in the European elections, winning just 1.51 percent, compared with 6.61 percent in 2014.

On Our Radar: Former PM warns of possible conflict with Turkey
Former Socialist Premier Costas Simitis has not ruled out a crisis with Turkey similar to the one in 1996, which brought the two countries to the brink of war over the eastern Aegean islets of Imia. In a commentary published in the Kathimerini newspaper yesterday, Simitis said the problems between the two countries are known but “the difference now” is the discovery of gas reserves off Cyprus and speculation of their existence in Greek waters. He said the 1996 conflict, that occurred just after he became premier, was caused by Turkey which sought to “exploit the crisis” created by the resignation of his predecessor Andreas Papandreou due to illness. “The intense political confrontation in Greece ahead of the elections,” he said, could pave the way for similar designs of the Turkish leadership. The status of the Imia islets has been disputed by Turkey.