fogn.png
Saturday September 26th, 2020 4:07AM

Greek election front runner keeps campaign unusually low-key

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LAVRIO, Greece (AP) — On an exhaustive tour of Greece's blue collar towns and city suburbs, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has a spring in his step — no wonder, he's the overwhelming favorite to become the country's next prime minister as the unlikely heir of a powerful political family.

Arriving at Lavrio, an old factory town near Athens, residents form a welcome cluster next to a seafront cafe. Mitsotakis steps out of his car and switches into casual campaigning mode, crouching to chat to children, greeting young men with an arm-wrestle handshake, hugging pensioners, and using his height to snap cellphone photos.

He chooses a microphone over a podium and in less than 10 minutes hits the highlights of why he thinks voters should back his conservative New Democracy party: Greece, he argues, needs to embrace a pro-business culture after a decade of economic turbulence, fix its law-and-order problems, and continue making its once heavily over-staffed state bureaucracy more efficient.

A crowd of around 50 people listen politely, eager to get another chance to meet the man strongly favored to win in Sunday's general election.

The 51-year-old Mitsotakis heads to the election with a big lead in opinion polls over left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has led the country for the past four years as Greece struggled to bring an end to its crippling financial crisis and financial dependency on others, as well as cope with a massive refugee crisis — more than a million people arrived on Greece's eastern islands in 2015-16 in dinghies and unsafe boats before trying to make their way to the more prosperous countries of central Europe.

"I want to make Greece a normal European country," Mitsotakis told the AP, his ease with English reflecting a decade of studying in the United States at Harvard University and Stanford.

"I'm sick and tired of us being treated as the poster boy for the crisis."

He's not alone in that wish.

Greece has just struggled through one of its biggest crisis since World War II. Forced to seek an international bailout in 2010, Greece's economy shrank by a quarter and unemployment had spiked to over 25 percent — double that among the young. Protests and riots became a feature of Greek life. Many were blamed for the hardship from political parties — including Mitsotakis' predecessors at New Democracy — to Greece's bailout creditors who demanded severe cutbacks in return for their financial help to Athens.

"As many mistakes as we made, there were also lots of mistakes made by our creditors," said Mitsotakis. "We want to leave this period behind us."

Mitsotakis is a pro-European conservative and should he win on Sunday, he will be confronted with an array of challenges, including renewed tension with neighbor Turkey and the ongoing draconian budget targets set by bailout lenders. Though Greece may no longer require direct financial assistance, it still needs to run a high budget surplus in order to pay off its debt, which despite years of retrenchment still stands at a colossal 180 percent or so of the country's annual GDP.

Born into one of Greece's best known political families, Mitsotakis is the son of confrontational conservative prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, who led the country in the early 1990s. His sister Dora Bakogiannis later served as foreign minister, and his nephew Kostas Bakogiannis was recently elected Mayor of Athens.

"I'm very proud of my family legacy but I don't think you'll find many people who say they're voting for me because I'm the son of an ex-prime minister," he said.

Mitsotakis had not been expected to lead the party, but was elected president of New Democracy in 2016, following four straight election defeats at national, local, and European elections. He struggled to win over many powerful figures in his party who viewed him as awkward in public and lacking swagger.

The criticism faded as he took the party's opinion poll lead to double digits and led landslide wins in regional and European elections in May. Confidence came from a punishing timetable of campaign appearances, picking small venues often in low-income areas in a bid to take on government strongholds as well as a widely-held perception of family privilege.

Aides say he survives on power naps and healthy habits — he doesn't smoke or drink — on an intensive schedule of touring that started soon after he became leader.

Mitsotakis opted for U.S.-style town hall gatherings instead of mass rallies, a staple of Greek politics for decades, as he kept up attacks on the Tsipras government, accusing it of hammering the middle class with high taxes to avoid deeper reforms.

The taxes, Tsipras countered, helped avert a "humanitarian catastrophe" as the financial crisis caused an explosion of job losses and poverty. The prime minister has accused his opponent of maintaining far-right officials in senior party positions and adopting a mindset of austerity prescribed by the International Monetary Fund when he served in a previous government as minister for public sector reform for 18 months.

Leaving Lavrio, Mitsotakis hits back with fighting words, branding Tsipras a populist who undermined state institutions and promised too much.

"He knows he's going to lose. The only thing he's doing is trying to portray us as the big, bad neoliberals who are coming to power to suck people's blood, or whatever. It doesn't resonate with anyone. It's so yesterday."

___

Follow Gatopoulos at http://twitter.com/dgatopoulos and Stavrakis at http://twitter.com/Tstavra

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Elections, General Election News, AP World News, AP Business, AP Elections - Campaigns, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
EU consults nuclear deal partners as Iran warns of new steps
The European Union says it's in contact with signatories of the Iran nuclear agreement and will discuss with them what steps to take should the country ramp up uranium enrichment this weekend
7:26AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Appeals court: Trump can't use Pentagon cash for border wall
An appeals court has upheld a freeze on Pentagon money to build a border wall with Mexico, casting doubt on President Donald Trump's ability to make good on a signature campaign promise before the 2020 election
7:24AM ( 22 minutes ago )
The Latest: Oil tanker stopped off Gibraltar at US request
Spain's caretaker foreign minister says a tanker stopped off Gibraltar and suspected of taking oil to Syria was intercepted by British authorities after a request from the United States.
7:23AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Biden has raised $21.5 million since late April
Joe Biden reported raising $21.5 million for his presidential campaign in the second quarter, trailing Pete Buttigieg
1:30AM ( 6 hours ago )
Harris says busing should be considered, not mandated
Sen. Kamala Harris says busing students should be considered by school districts trying to desegregate _ not a federal mandate
10:31PM ( 9 hours ago )
Indian political scion Rahul Gandhi resigns as party leader
Indian political scion Rahul Gandhi has resigned as president of the opposition Congress party to take responsibility for its election defeat
8:57PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Elections
Show of hands on immigrant health care belies a thorny issue
Democrats' show of hands on health care for unauthorized immigrants would reverse longstanding policies
10:43AM ( 21 hours ago )
Harris picks up new endorsement among divided black caucus
Connecticut Democrat Jahana Hayes is endorsing Sen. Kamala Harris for president
8:57AM ( 22 hours ago )
Buttigieg says plan to expand national service will unify US
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg wants to increase opportunities for national service and build a network of 1 million service members by 2026, coinciding with the 250th anniversary of America's independence
6:00AM ( 1 day ago )
General Election News
Japan export curbs take effect as SKorean officials protest
Japanese controls on exports of key materials used to make semiconductors and displays have taken effect, as South Korean officials vow to fight back
6:41AM ( 1 hour ago )
Gibraltar detains Syria-bound super tanker with Iranian oil
The government of Gibraltar says it has detained a large tanker that is believed to be breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to war-ravaged Syria.
6:38AM ( 1 hour ago )
Australian student released in North Korea says 'I'm OK'
An Australian student has been released after a week in detention in North Korea and told reporters in Beijing he was "very good" but didn't say what happened
6:36AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
Got a Tokyo Olympics ticket? Unrivaled demand causes turmoil
Tokyo Olympic organizers have been overwhelmed by ticket demand
6:25AM ( 1 hour ago )
US still seeks a way to ask about citizenship on the census
The Department of Justice says it's still looking for a way to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census
6:07AM ( 1 hour ago )
Putin to meet pope, Italian leaders on one-day visit to Rome
Russian President Vladimir Putin is emphasizing historically strong ties with Italy before a one-day visit to Rome that will include a meeting with Pope Francis
5:36AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Kaepernick stirs new controversy for Nike
Report: Nike is pulling a Betsy Ross' flag-themed tennis shoe after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick complained to the shoemaker
10:32PM ( 1 day ago )
Trump Facebook ads use models to portray actual supporters
A series of Trump campaign Facebook ads is using stock video footage of models to portray actual supporters
5:24PM ( 1 day ago )
GOP political donation tool to rival Trump's preferred app
A Texas company is launching a new political donation app for Republicans that will rival a similar platform endorsed by President Donald Trump, potentially complicating GOP efforts to match Democrats' online fundraising success
4:06PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Asian shares climb after US benchmarks hit record highs
Shares advance in Asia, tracking rally on Wall Street that pushed S&P 500, other major indexes to record highs
10:57PM ( 8 hours ago )
S&P 500, Dow industrials and Nasdaq close at record highs
U.S. stocks closed broadly higher on Wednesday and reached a third record high in as many days
8:23PM ( 11 hours ago )
Trump says US should start manipulating the dollar
Trump says US should start manipulating the dollar and stop being played for 'dummies' in trade
7:07PM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Chinese official: Pig fever outbreak 'complicated and grim'
An official says the death toll from a disease that struck China's pig herds has risen to 1.2 million and the government is stepping up efforts to contain outbreaks
1:06AM ( 6 hours ago )
World shares mixed, Europe advances after fresh S&P 500 high
Shares in Europe rose sharply Wednesday as investors warmed to the announcement that Christine Lagarde, the current head of the International Monetary Fund, will take the helm at the European Central Bank.
8:20AM ( 23 hours ago )
UK recession fears mount amid Brexit and global slowdown
The British economy increasingly looks like it could be heading towards a recession as uncertainty over Brexit combines with a less benign global backdrop.
7:14AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Financial Markets
EU consults nuclear deal partners as Iran warns of new steps
The European Union says it's in contact with signatories of the Iran nuclear agreement and will discuss with them what steps to take should the country ramp up uranium enrichment this weekend
7:26AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Appeals court: Trump can't use Pentagon cash for border wall
An appeals court has upheld a freeze on Pentagon money to build a border wall with Mexico, casting doubt on President Donald Trump's ability to make good on a signature campaign promise before the 2020 election
7:24AM ( 22 minutes ago )
The Latest: Oil tanker stopped off Gibraltar at US request
Spain's caretaker foreign minister says a tanker stopped off Gibraltar and suspected of taking oil to Syria was intercepted by British authorities after a request from the United States.
7:23AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Challenging times ahead as Lampard returns to Chelsea
Frank Lampard has returned to Chelsea as the club's 12th manager in 16 years under Roman Abramovich's ownership
7:10AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Tornado in northeast China kills 6 people, injures 190
State media says a tornado in northeast China has killed 6 people and injured another 190
6:58AM ( 47 minutes ago )