On-air slip of the tongue by PASOK-KINAL candidate taken out of context

An apparent slip of the tongue by a PASOK-KINAL election candidate during a live discussion on state television was widely shared to claim that the centre-left party was advocating for higher taxes on the middle class ahead of the June 25, 2023 vote. However, a review of the entire debate shows that Eleni Chronopoulou’s remarks in the lead-up to the fumble were actually against any such tax increase, which is also not in PASOK-KINAL’s programme. Chronopoulou clarified the next day that she had misspoken and meant to say that the party wanted to lower the taxes that hurt the middle class. Her error was misleadingly repeated by several social media users and ignited a debate regarding party proposals on taxation.

Social media posts claimed that Chronopoulou had accidentally revealed her party’s real agenda during the May 29 debate on ERT’s Elections at the Centre programme. “Hidden agenda for taxes by PASOK KINAL!” read the first line of this Facebook post.

Other social media posts (herehere) as well as media reports repeated the lawyer’s remarks without the context in which it was made. Some posts shared an excerpt of only the sentence in question.

A review of the debate shows it was misleading to highlight Chronopoulou’s slip of the tongue. She also publicly explained the next day that she had misspoken.

A Facebook post with the misleading claim. Screenshot taken on June 1, 2023

What Chronopoulou said

Chronopoulou appeared on Elections at the Centre on May 29 along with New Democracy’s Kostis Chatzidakis and SYRIZA’s Nikolas Farantouris. The entire broadcast can be found here.

A little more than 23 minutes into the show, Eleftheros Typos journalist and director Panos Amyras asked Chronopoulou about her party’s proposals on taxation. She presented a number of tax decreases that PASOK-KINAL includes in its electoral programme for the June 25 poll (archived).

“What we are essentially trying to do is to redistribute the tax system,” she said. “That means instead of having at this moment a 60 percent consumption tax that is paid mostly by the lower middle class, we want to give an alternative so that we could reshuffle the taxes to take state pressure off the citizens.”

Amyras responded: “Therefore you will increase some taxes and you will lower others, that’s what you are saying.”

“We will increase some taxes, and we will lower others, yes,” answered Chronopoulou.

At that point, both Amyras and the show’s presenter Giorgos Kouvaras asked in chorus about the taxes that PASOK-KINAL would increase. “It is interesting to learn which ones you will increase…,” said Kouvaras.

Chronopoulou said: “I can tell you which we are going to lower… We will lower taxes on work… .”

Kouvaras insisted: “Not which you will lower, alright, you said them, we know them. Which are you going to increase to lower others? This is interesting. I imagine you will increase some.”

It is then that Chronopoulou gave the clumsy reply that was shared on social media. “Yes, we will raise some taxes. We will raise taxes that we see are actually hurting the middle class.”

Although this appeared in contradiction to her earlier remark about taking tax pressure off citizens, Kouvaras did not follow up, replying only, “Alright.”

Correction the following day

The following day, Chronopoulou appeared on the morning show of SKAI TV (archived link) where she clarified her position and corrected her statement from the previous night.

“In a panel that lasted a long time, I was asked about taxes, what we aim to do for taxation,” she said. “And after I finished my reasoning, I said by mistake that we will increase the taxes that hurt the middle class, instead of saying that we will not increase, or that we will decrease them,” she said.

“I made a mistake in wording. […] If a journalist sees the video, they will understand that it is as if I am saying, ‘green, green, green, therefore black’. When I made the mistake, I said to myself, ‘Did I say this right?’ But by the time I had left the studio and saw the replay, it was all over the place.”

Greek Prime Minister and leader of the right-wing party New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leaves the polling booth in Athens on May 21, 2023 ( AFP / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS)

PASOK-KINAL’s programme on taxation

Despite Chronopoulou’s correction, the centre-right New Democracy party used the incident to accuse PASOK-KINAL of having a hidden agenda which includes heavy tax increases.

On the ninth point of its electoral programme, PASOK-KINAL makes the following commitments regarding taxation:

  • Lowering of taxes related to work;
  • Lowering VAT on basic food goods and care products;
  • Emergency taxation of superprofits of banks and big businesses in monopoly sectors of the economy.

In a speech for the presentation of PASOK-KINAL’s electoral programme on May 5, ahead of the first election on May 21 (archived), party leader Nikos Androulakis put forward the following positions regarding taxation:

  • Lowering of taxes related to work;
  • Lowering of taxes on basic food goods;
  • Substantial checks to combat profiteering;
  • Limit on the retail prices of energy;
  • Reduction by 50 percent of the high bar for tax-free parental benefits;
  • Gradual, progressive increase in the tax rate on distributed dividends, which is among the lowest in Europe;
  • Emergency taxation of superprofits of banks and big businesses in monopoly sectors of the economy.

New Democracy’s electoral programme meanwhile proposes “just taxation” by cracking down on tax evasion and lowering VAT in specific services. You can find their tax policy on page six of their programme (archived here).

SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance propose similar policies to PASOK-KINAL. They suggest lowering indirect taxes and taxing “superprofits that have been accumulated by specific business interests”. You can find their tax programme on page seven of their programme (archived here).

The Greek Communist Party proposes the abolition of “unfair and antipopular taxes” and wants to increase taxes on the “big capital”. Their most recent statement on the issue can be found here.

Hellenic Solution proposes a series of measures regarding taxation, including lowering the VAT and abolishing the tax on private ownership of real estate. You can find their proposed tax policy on pages 244-255 of their programme (archived here).

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Politics, Uncategorized

Author(s): Petros Konstantinidis, AFP Greece

Originally published here.