ATHENS – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the Radical Left SYRIZA leader, put forth the name of New Democracy Conservative lawmaker Prokopis Pavlopoulos to be the country’s symbolic President.
Pavlopoulos, 64, is a lawyer who was a former Minister of the Interior and Public Order and served his party leader and former Premier Antonis Samaras and occasionally barked about some of the harsh austerity measures that came with international bailouts but supported them.
Pavlopoulos will need to get 180 votes in the 300-member Parliament in voting which begins on Feb. 17. SYRIZA and its coalition partner, the Independent Greeks, (ANEL) have 162 and the choice of a lawmaker from the Leftist’s bitter political rival could be a hard sell to some die-hard far-leftists in SYRIZA.
Traditionally, a Premier picks a compromise candidate from another party for the job but Samaras brought his downfall as Prime Minister by trying to push through his party’s Vice-President Stavros Dimas for the position but lost that battle, leading to early national elections which elevated SYRIZA.
Tsipras had to pick a candidate to replace Karolos Papoulias, whose term is expiring and until Pavlopoulos was named the front-runner was another New Democracy stalwart and the country’s European Commissoner and former Athens Mayor, Dimitris Avramopoulos.
But Avramopoulos didn’t back have the backing of ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, now Defense Minister, who broke from New Democracy in a bitter dispute and has been a fierce critic of the party and Samaras.
Speaking to SYRIZA’s parliamentary group, Tsipras said the decision to nominate the former conservative Interior Minister reflected the need for political and social consensus even though it meant he had to nominate someone whose political positions are anathema to him.
ANEL had liked New Democracy lawmaker Dora Bakoyiannis, who also had been an outcast for a while from the Conservatives and formed her own party, only to be invited back in before turning on Samaras after he lost.
Kathimerini said that SYRIZA officials told Tsipras the only conservative candidates the party could accept were Pavlopoulos, as he has been critical of the bailout agreements, and former Education Minister Marietta Giannakou who has been snapping hard at Samaras for the party’s defeat.
The nomination is a defeat for some forces in SYRIZA though who wanted a more Leftist-oriented choice, such as author Ioanna Karystiani, filmmaker Costa-Gavras and former Finance Minister Manolis Drettakis, who left PASOK in 1984 and later joined Synaspismos Left Coalition, the precursor to SYRIZA.
“The will of the Greek people has to be completely satisfied and this will come if the President is from the left,” said SYRIZA veteran and MEP Manolis Glezos, a WWII hero.