ATHENS – Greece’s coalition government is trying to quell speculation it favors Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis to be the country’s next President.
“We can’t discuss something that is set to happen months from now when we are preparing for serious negotiations for the country’s exit from the Eurozone and the memorandums,” said government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi.
She was referring to the country’s next round of negotiations with its international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) in Paris and Athens next month. Greece still hasn’t finished some 600 reforms.
There were reports that Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras and his partner, the PASOK Socialists, wanted Kouvelis to succeed Karolos Papoulias in February, 2015.
The government reportedly wanted to take the wind out of the sails of the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which said it would block any candidate in a bid to bring down the government.
Election of a President by Parliament requires 180 votes and the government only has 152. Kouvelis was seen as a bid to reach out to more moderate opposition parties because he’s seen as a malleable figure although he withdrew DIMAR from the coalition last year in objection to the firing of all 2,653 workers at the now-defunct state broadcaster ERT.
The President traditionally is seen as a compromise candidate between the ruling parties and opposition, but Health Minister Makis Voridis, who jumped ship from the far-right LAOS party to join New Democracy, said he would only accept a “President from the center-right,” which means his own party, although he said the position should be someone “with broad appeal,” a contradiction.
Andreas Psycharis, another conservative lawmaker, said current Parliament Speaker Vangelis Meimarakis from New Democracy would be a better choice, Kathimerini said. The Speaker is close to Samaras and a New Democracy President would be someone answerable to the Premier.
DIMAR lawmakers, whose party has fallen to 1.4 percent support for its support of austerity measures, are split over whether their own leader should be President.ndidacy. Sources have said the party will decide on whether or not to support Kouvelis as a candidate if it sees a shift in the coalition’s policy away from austerity.