ATHENS – After two years of pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, a reduced minimum wage and the slated firing of 150,000 public workers imposed during his watch as Finance Minister, new PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos has now admitted that it could all fail and Greece could still be pushed out of the Eurozone of countries using the euro as a currency. Greece administered the austerity measures on orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) in return for two bailouts of $325 billion to prop up an economy killed by generations of politicians packing public payrolls with hundreds of thousands of needless workers in return for votes.
And with the May 6 elections looming to elect a new leader, Venizelos again pushed for support for his party and a pro-European agenda. PASOK is uneasily sharing power with its bitter rival New Democracy Conservatives but both parties have seen their popularity plummet because of their support for austerity. Venizelos had warned Greeks against reacting with anger to punish the ruling parties, a stance he said could bring in anti-bailout parties.
In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Venizelos said that despite all the austerity he helped impose to keep Greece in the Eurozone, that the country could still be forced out regardless of the elections outcome. He has promised no more taxes if elected, and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is trying to backtrack on his support for austerity, but the Troika has said that $15 billion in new cuts is needed and that any attempts to renege on reforms would result in the money pipeline being shut off. Samaras has largely been quiet in recent days while Venizelos has been giving interviews. Both have stayed away from public campaigning as many mainstream politicians are fearful of being harangued or assaulted, although Venizelos has planned a May 4 rally in Syntagma Square, the heart of protests and where a pensioner committed suicide two months ago after writing he was driven to it by what austerity had done to his life.