May 24, 2019 / 11:25 AM / 25 days ago

Greek PM says EU poll is also vote of confidence in his policies

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday that the European parliament election was also a vote of confidence in his policies, and a minister who is close to him said an early national election was possible depending on the result.

Greek Prime Minister and leader of Syriza party Alexis Tsipras is applauded by supporters during the party's main European election rally, in Athens, Greece, May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

Tsipras, whose term ends in October, this month announced a package of tax breaks and benefits for pensioners, hit hard since 2010 when the debt crisis broke out. His Syriza party trails the conservative New Democracy party in opinion polls.

Speaking to state ERT TV, the leftist leader said he saw Sunday’s EU election as a vote of confidence on his plan to unravel austerity policies in 2019 and in 2020.

A national election is officially due in October.

Asked if he was considering a snap election in June and whether that hinged on the EU vote result, Tsipras said: “On Sunday, people may not be voting for a government but they will be voting on the policies that will govern the country in the coming years.”

“If these measures are rejected, all (prospects) are open,” Tsipras said, without providing details.

“Any percentage of defeat for the Syriza party ... would open a discussion that I cannot foretell how would end. We would be entering an adventure,” he said.

State Minister Christoforos Vernadakis, one of Tsipras’ closest aides, said the government would look into its options after the EU vote result.

Asked about the prospect of an early national election in June, he told a local TV station: “I cannot rule it out.”

Greece emerged from its third international bailout in August last year. The debt-laded country has been outperforming fiscal targets agreed with its international creditors, giving Tsipras leeway for handouts.

The government’s latest package almost immediately triggered concern from euro zone finance ministers.

Tsipras said a victory on Sunday would empower him to negotiate with lenders on easing austerity.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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