BRUSSELS – Without naming the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) that is hoping to thwart election of a Greek President and force early national elections, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Greeks should not put “extreme forces” into power and said he prefers “known faces,” without specifying the ruling New Democracy Conservatives of his friend, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
“I think that the Greeks – who have a very difficult life – know very well what a wrong election result would mean for Greece and the Eurozone,” Juncker told Austrian television, according to the EUobserver online newspaper.
With SYRIZA leading in polls and the country’s international lenders forcing him to abandon plans for an early exit from the terms of bailouts that included harsh austerity measures, Samaras moved the election of a symbolic Greek President from February, 2015 to this month, with the first round scheduled for Dec. 17.
Election of a President requires 200 votes in a first or second round in the 300-member Parliament and Samaras’ coalition government, which includes the PASOK Socialists has only 155 although eight Independents have said they will back his candidate, New Democracy Vice-President Stavros Dimas.
If Dimas isn’t elected in the first two dounds, with a second set for Dec. 22, a third and final ballot would be held on Dec. 29, with 180 votes required to win. If that fails, national elections will be called for late January or early February with SYRIZA vowing to revise the conditions of 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two rescue packages from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) or to walk away from the debt.
That could force Greece out of the Eurozone, jeopardize the financial bloc and undermine Juncker, a former Eurozone chief who just took over as the European Commission’s head.
Asked whether his comment was a reference to SYRIZA, Juncker was quoted as saying: “I would like Greece to be ruled by people who have an eye and a heart for the many little people in Greece and who also understand the necessity of European processes.”
“Each party who stands for election has to live up to these standards and I won’t comment on the chances of one or the other party, but I would prefer if known faces show up,” Juncker said.