ATHENS – Having easily won a confidence vote in the Parliament his coalition controls, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ government now has to convince International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde the country is recovering enough to take an early exit from bailout deals.
Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis is leading a Greek delegation in meeting Lagarde in Washington, D.C. Oct. 12 to discuss the country’s faltering record on finishing reforms but also to persuade her Greece doesn’t need a third bailout, or an ongoing financial lifeline has she has suggested.
Greece is surviving on what’s left of 240 billion euros ($317 billion) in two rescue packages from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB.) The European aid runs out this year but the IMF loans are scheduled to go on until 2016, when Greece next is scheduled to have national elections.
But Samaras, with his New Democracy Conservatives having fallen behind the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) that opposes the austerity measures he imposed on Troika orders, is keen to show he has some support and has driven the country to the edge of recovery.
Hardouvelis is being joined by his predecessor as finance chief, Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, who has dealt with Lagarde many times, and Stavros Papastavrou, a close aide to Samaras.
The possibility of a credit line for Greece being maintained is open for discussion, as Samaras indicated in his speech to Parliament before the confidence vote.
The premier plans to request an early exit from the IMF arm of the bailout in a letter to Lagarde after the results of European Central Bank stress tests on Greek lenders on October 26, Kathimerini said.
European officials are also wary about Greece going it alone. One official in Brussels described Greece as “a patient who was smoking three packets of cigarettes a day, two bottles of whisky and eight hot dogs… and is now jogging.”
Although Greece is not on the agenda, it is likely to be discussed at a Eurogroup summit in Luxembourg on Oct. 13. It’s not known whether the talks with Lagarde and at the Eurozone will be about debt relief Greece wants.
Samaras is coming off a pyrrhic victory, winning the vote of confidence but getting only the 127 votes from his party and 28 from his coalition partner, the PASOK Socialists.
No other MP voted for him, which presents a looming problem as the government needs 180 votes to get its candidate for a Greek President elected in February, 2015 or early elections will be called, with SYRIZA leading.
Polls show leftist SYRIZA widening its lead over New Democracy. Sources say that Samaras, who must appoint a new Defense Minister as Dimitris Avramopoulos assumes the European Commission’s immigration portfolio, may conduct a mini reshuffle soon, his second this year and third since narrowly winning the 2012 elections but without enough of the vote to rule outright.