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ATHENS – Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras will have to persuade 20 more lawmakers to back his choice of Greek President in a final round of balloting for Greek President on Dec. 29 or early national elections will be called.

His coalition government, which includes the fast-fading PASOK Socialists, got 160 for their choice, New Democracy Vice-President Stavros Dimas, far below the threshold of 200 needed in a first round, or for a second on Dec. 22 which is almost certain to fail given the initial results.

That leaves Samaras, who is also trying to deal with international lenders over unfinished reforms and three billion euro hole in the 2015 budget, to hope he can get the 180 votes needed in the third round or his government will collapse and Greeks will go to the polls early next year to elect a new Parliament and President.

The result was slightly worse than expected in the first round as the government had hoped to get at least 161 – six more than its combined 155 votes in Parliament – and try to build some momentum, expecting some fence-sitters not to tip their hand in a failed initial ballot.

Members of Parliament either have to vote for the President or “Present,” and cannot cast “No” ballots. There were 135 voting “Present,” including Independent Panayiotis Melas who said he will likely support Dimas in the coming two rounds without explaining why he didn’t on the first.

Also two former MPs of the ultra far-right Golden Dawn, Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos and Stathis Boukouras, who was released from prison earlier on Dec. 17, did not turn up for the vote. Seven other extremist lawmakers who were given a day’s release from detention in Korydallos Prison while they are awaiting trial on charges of running a criminal gang did vote but didn’t raise a ruckus as feared.


Samaras and his Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister, the PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, now have to twist some arms or offer arguments that will convince reluctant Independents and rival lawmakers opposed to the government’s policy of imposing austerity measures on orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank.

A proposal by five independents and three Democratic Left (DIMAR) MPs aimed at securing a cross-party consensus for President and setting elections later next year could gain extra backing in the coming days, Kathimerini said. The lawmakers didn’t say why they didn’t back Dimas right off the bat but waited.

DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis, who had served in the coalition government before leaving after he opposed public worker firings, had released his 10 lawmakers to vote the way they wanted without fear of repercussions from his as his party has fallen to nearly one percent in polls.

Major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, who is leading in polls and hopes to block Dimas’ election and force national elections, said the government won’t be able to rally enough support.

“The fearmongering of the last few days failed,” he said as he left Parliament, a shot at Samaras who warned the economy would collapse and there would be a run on the banks if SYRIZA came to power. SYRIZA said he would seek to revise the terms of two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($306 billion) from the Troika or renege on the debt, which could leave Greece broke and unable to borrow from the markets.

“The strategy of fear has collapsed. Tomorrow will be a new day because democracy cannot be blackmailed. The people and democracy will provide the way out,” said Tsipras. SYRIZA had thought the government might get 163 votes in the first round.

Still, SYRIZA reportedly believes the government might be able to convince more than another handful of MP’s to change their mind and their vote and come around behind Dimas with Samaras preaching that a defeat and the subsequent political instability would roil the markets and unravel a coming recovery from a six-year-long recession.

Ahead of the vote, Venizelos met with his MPs and suggested that the government would be open to suggestions that might help reach a compromise with the opposition so a President could be elected although Samaras had already ruled that out.

Venizelos though suggested providing his archenemy SYRIZA with representation on a Greek team to negotiate with the Troika although he didn’t explain what good that would do as the Leftists are adamantly opposed to the lenders and their demands for more austerity that has created record unemployment and deep poverty.

Already conceding defeat in the second round, Venizelos said: “We advance to the third round while waiting for a response from opposition parties to an approach that would link the Presidential election to the national negotiation team,” he said.

“Then we would be open to discussing all options because what we are concerned about is the national interest.” With SYRIZA opposed to the Troika it wasn’t said whether the Leftists would even be interested in the offer as they apparently wouldn’t have veto power over any deals the government would strike.


The post After Presidential Defeat, Samaras Regroups To Fend Off Early Elections appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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