ATHENS – Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras’ coalition government said the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the Independent Greeks (ANEL) are lined up with each other to thwart election of a Greek President to force early national elections.
Government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi accused SYRIZA of forming a “clear alliance” with ANEL. “What we are seeing is incredible,” said Voultepsi, referring to claims by ANEL that bribes had been offered to vote for Samaras’ candidate, New Democracy Vice-President Stavros Dimas.
She said SYRIZA, which has refused to distance itself from the allegations but instead said they should be investigated, would profit from the charges that are adding to political instability as the government is in the middle of negotiations with international lenders over unfinished reforms and a how to close a hole in the 2015 budget of up to three billion euros.
Dimas got only 160 of the 300 votes in Parliament in a first round ballot on Dec. 17 and now faces an almost-certain second round defeat as well on Dec. 23. The first two rounds require 200 votes and the coalition, which includes the PASOK Socialists, has only 155 and got only five Independents in support in the initial vote.
If the ballot goes to a third round on Dec. 29, which requires 180 votes, then Samaras will have to call national elections as early as next month and his government won’t finish out its term that is due to expire in 2016. He said that would also undermine a looming recovery.
Surveys show SYRIZA is leading and Leftist leader Alexis Tsipras said if elected he would seek to revise the harsh austerity terms that came with 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two bailouts from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) or walk away from the debt, which could leave Greece broke and likely forced out of the Eurozone, jeopardizing the financial bloc.
Samaras, threatening to sue ANEL – whose leader, former New Democracy member Panos Kammenos has said he can back up the charges with video and audio proof – had offered national elections at the end of next year if a consensus could be found to elect Dimas.
Voultepsi dismissed the allegations that there was an attempt to bribe ANEL MP Pavlos Haikalis, a former TV actor as a “purely internal matter” at the nationalist party.
She said it was suspicious that Haikalis, who said he was first offered 700,000 euros and then two million euros to back Dimas, did not name the person he said was acting on behest of the government, although it later emerged the middleman is Giorgos Apostolopoulos, who used to work for Deutsche Bank and has been aligned with both New Democracy and ANEL.
Comedian Lakis Lazopoulos, who was said to have witnessed the bribe attempt, was due to give evidence on Dec. 22 as part of the investigation into the claims.
Haikalis and Kammenos appeared before the prosecutor on Dec. 21 and it was reported that Haikalis asked for privacy restrictions to be lifted so authorities could check Apostolopoulos’s phone records to see who had contacted him before a third meeting was due to take place between the two men.
ANEL believes the alleged middleman was tipped off that authorities would monitoring the meeting and failed to turn up.
Kammenos reportedly alleged that Apostolopoulos was also secretly recording the meetings with the aim of using the material to blackmail the party and the ANEL leader said if the government didn’t show the tape then his party would release it publicly.
Apostolopoulos was questioned by the prosecutor on Dec. 21 and claimed that he has footage which proves that the claims made by Kammenos are false but so far the tape that could possibly show what happened is still secret.
Kammenos earlier had said he would back Tsipras’ attempt to block the election of Dimas but the ANEL leader, whose party has only 12 votes in Parliament and is fading, is having trouble keeping his lawmakers in line with some reportedly ready to jump ship in the vote to go along with what Samaras wants.
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