Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Sunday warned that the PASOK government is a 'captive' of its own mistaken policy and unable to attain its targets, while he reiterated a call for early general elections, during the customary press conference at the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Samaras spoke of "tax-enthusiasts" in the government, ones who have "broken all records" in the economy, given that "there is no book on the economy in any country that says that in times of recession you increase taxes ... Last year, they didn't believe me. This year, don't they see the results?" he asked, referring to the government.
"Do they want to save Greece with the Greeks, or the economy without the Greeks?" Samaras asked, putting the question to the government and to government vice president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Samaras pointed out that wherever the government raised the taxes over the past seven months, revenues have fallen against the corresponding period of the previous year, and cited as an example figures showing that revenues from vehicle circulation fees slumped by 80 percent and revenues from fuel fell by 20 percent.
Asked why he was not collaborating with Prime Minister George Papandreou, with the two of them going to Brussels together for a renegotiation with the country's Eurozone partners, Samaras explained: "It is not a matter of faces. It is a political matter. They (government) have a different way of exercising policy, and (ruling) PASOK is muddled because it is in the midst of an existential crisis".
The only solution under the present circumstances is elections, the ND leader reiterated, and called for "clean solutions, with elections and a strong popular mandate".
He ruled out the prospect of co-governance with PASOK, adding that he couldn't care less if Papandreou wants co-governance for "a different reason" in order to "fall softly".
"I will not burn the country's biggest weapon, which at this time is clean solutions and elections," he said.
Samaras further said he has been vindicated in the predictions he had made, but does not feel pleased when the citizens tell him so.
The ND leader further reiterated his call for renegotiation of the Memorandum, stressing that "renegotiation of the Memorandum means jump-starting the Greek economy", but noted that in order to achieve this certain prerequisites are needed.
"The programme you are implementing has problems, there needs to be a Plan B and a clear mandate from the people which the stronger that is, the stronger will also be the one who goes to renegotiate".
He further rejected a Greek exit from the Eurozone, citing a bank report that the cost of Greece's exit from the Eurozone would be much greater than the cost of rescuing the country.
On a second bailout package for Greece, Samaras stressed that "if the new Memorandum is on the right track, I have no problem about voting in favor of it ... but if it is on the same rationale (as the current Memorandum) I will vote against it".
Samaras also pledged that when his party takes over the government it will set up a Parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate how the country reached the Memorandum, "so that the people will learn the truth about how the (preceding) ND government turned over Greek spreads at 130 basis points and today the spreads exceed 2,000 basis points".
The main opposition leader said that a renegotiation of the Memorandum for jump-starting the economy, with social cohesion and dignity, reduction of the wasteful state,
materialisation of the commitment to low pension earners, change of the law on acquiring citizenship and reduction of illegal migration were among the immediate priorities that an ND government will advance.
Asked if ND cadres are having "ministerial suits tailored", Samaras replied: "I know of no one having a suit sewn for my government. In order to have a new suit sewn, you must first have worn overalls and gotten them dirty."
Asked if he would seek the contribution of former prime minister and preceding ND leader Costas Karamanlis, Samaras replied that "Mr. Karamanlis, his opinions and experience, are invaluable", and that the relations between them are "very good".
Samaras further said he was not interested in winning the elections just for the sake of winning, but because he is interested in governing, and that is why he needs everyone at his side.
Asked if he would seek a governmental cooperation with the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) leader George Karatzaferis or Democratic Alliance (DISI) leader and former ND deputy and minister Dora Bakoyannis, Samaras said ND completely covers the centre-right area and that simply evoking the term centre-right does not automatically make someone a member of his party.
"The centre-right is not an apartment building, nor is it a one-family house. It is a crusade for the salvation of Greece, and there is no room in it for populists and opportunists," Samaras pointedly added.
Questioned over his criticism that the present government is 'investing' in the government's bankruptcy, Samaras replied that the PASOK government must give account for its two years of misery and disaster-mongering, adding that government cadres have spoken of the drachma, and not ND.
On the proposal set out by ND for the reserve labour measure, Samaras stressed that the ND proposal did not contain mass layoffs, but provided for employees above 50 years of age labor reserve until retirement, six years for employees between 40 and 50, and three years reserve for employees between 30 and 40.
Samaras further said that problems of "cacophony, indecision and lack of long-term prospect" exist in the European Union, adding that the problem is not the debt but the 'rigidities' and 'disabilities' of the euro itself.
Turning to foreign affairs, Samaras said that there is no room for opposition rhetoric on Turkey's stance towards Cyprus over the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and accused Ankara of a "delirium of provocations".
Cyprus, he continued, has absolute sovereign right to conduct explorations for hydrocarbons, adding that "Greece has lost precious time in declaring an EEZ, and what is needed first is its recognition".
On fYRoM 'name issue', he accused the neighboring country's prime minister of "extreme nationalism, which is leading him to the margins ... seeking an identity that does not belong to it (fYRoM)", while he endorsed a name for the landlocked one-time Yugoslav republic that will be used in relation to everyone (erga omnes).
In a response, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) charged that with the "strong and clear mandate" the ND leader is seeking from the people he is "calling on the people to accept the continuation of the torture and execution of the people's rights by a different executioner", adding that ND's proposal "also leads the people to bankruptcy", and with the reduction of state spending on the elementary social needs and 'reserve labor' comprises the other side of the same anti-popular policy that is expressed with today's tax raid".
The KKE, in a statement, said that "ND's positions and proposals reveal the insurmountable impasses and decline of the bourgeois parties and the euro-one-way", urging the Greek people to take a "strong and clear decision to be finished once and for all with the bourgeois parties and the euro-one-way, to rid itself of the Scylla and the Charybdis, to ensure with its struggle the path of development that ensures the people's needs".
The Coalition of the Left (SYN) said it is more than clear that the renegotiation of the Memorandum preached by Samaras is a veil for continuation of the fundamentally same policy as that of the present government, adding that ND's proposals on reserve labor, privatisations and an even larger reduction of that taxes of the large businesses leave no room for doubt that its policy comprises a shade of the Memorandum policy already being applied.
The Democratic Alliance (DISI) party accused Samaras of "extreme and shameless populism", saying he was speaking "out of place and time as if he hasn't realised in what era he is living".
The Democratic Left party said that "ND's alternative programme exhausts itself in generalised promises, without in there being in substance a proposal for the different policy it professes", adding that the best thing that Samaras has to do is to give explanations on the stance of its "European family parties" which "are basically responsible for the course of the EU and the Greek economy, with the policy imposed by the Merkel-Sarkozy-Barroso triangle".