World Bulletin / News Desk
Greek leftist Alexis Tsipras pledged on Friday to roll back wage and pension cuts, nationalise banks and freeze privatisations if he wins this month's election.
The firebrand leader, ahead in the latest opinion poll, is keeping up radical rhetoric that has horrified the country's lenders but is winning him support before the June 17 vote that is widely seen as a referendum on the country's future in the euro zone.
In an hour-long speech to outline his economic platform for the election, Tsipras showered supporters with a barrage of promises from saving indebted households and cutting taxes on bread and milk to further hiking taxes on the rich.
"The adjustment we are proposing will come from taxing the wealthy and those with high incomes," the 37-year-old said to a crowd chanting "It's time for the left!"
A vehement opponent of Greece's international bailout, which is conditional on deep spending cuts, Tsipras pledged to cancel the 130 billion euro ($161 billion) programme.
Greece relies on the money from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to avoid bankruptcy, and increasingly alarmed policymakers have warned Greeks that they face a painful return to the drachma currency if they abandon the programme and the austerity measures tied to it.
The Greek banking sector that Tsipras wants to nationalise is close to collapse, battered by recession and its exposure to Greek sovereign debt whose value has been slashed. Tsipras said he wanted to nationalise banks that had been recently recapitalised.
But opinion polls show that his populist proposals have brought him wide support among voters grappling with record unemployment and sharply lower living standards following a series of wage, pension and spending cuts.
Most polls show Tsipras's SYRIZA party running neck and neck with or slightly behind the pro-bailout New Democracy conservatives, though the respected Public Issue poll for the conservative Kathimerini paper on Friday gave SYRIZA a six point lead.
Most pollsters say the election outcome is too close to call, with a volatile mood among angry voters complicating predictions. This month's vote was called after an inconclusive election last month left no party able to form a government.
Greece is in its fifth year of a recession that has left one out of five people out of work. With tax revenues plunging in a shrinking economy, officials have warned the country could run out of money this month without a fresh injection of aid.
The head of Greece's biggest utility PPC told Reuters the country could suffer from power cuts later this year unless its lenders allow an emergency cash injection into power producers to let them buy fuel.
The latest economic data released on Friday showed the country's manufacturing sector shrank again in May but at a slower pace compared to the previous month, although declining production and orders forced firms to cut more jobs.
Greece has already received two bailouts totalling 240 billion euros but fellow euro zone member Ireland said last week that it would have to negotiate a third programme.
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