ATHENS – With time running down for the critical Jan. 25 elections and polls showing he’s behind, Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras is making a last plea for support and blasting the poll-leading major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) as a danger for the country’s recovery.
The two parties, far ahead of a few other groups which have only marginal support, are battling for undecided voters but mostly preaching to their own supporters at rallies and attacking each other, with SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras continuing to hammer home his message that Samaras made life miserable for workers, pensioners and the poor by imposing harsh austerity measures on the orders of international lenders.
The Premier has countered that if Tsipras is elected and goes ahead with his vow to renegotiate the terms or walk away from a big chunk of the 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two bailouts owed the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that the country would go broke and there would be a run on the banks.
The political instability has also rattled Greek banks who have applied for Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) as Greeks fearful of what could happen rushing to yank billions of euros in deposits.
Ahead of a crucial ECB meeting where a bond-buying program and ELA were to be discussed, Samaras said he had spoken with ECB President Mario Draghi.
“My chief concern is the bolstering of the banking system and of the economy,” Samaras said, referring to the request by Greece’s systemic banks to be granted ELA access.
Following appearances in eastern Attica and the southern coastal suburbs of Athens on Jan. 20, Samaras was slated to give his last big speech in the country’s second largest-city, Thessaloniki, where he was expected to say his party could keep stability and bring a looming recovery home.
The Premier also will reportedly return to attacking Tsipras as a political extremist. New Democracy Party Secretary Andreas Papamimikos appealed to “people of the reformist center” who, he said, “must realize that there is no leeway for third or neutral votes.” “These elections are all about who is going to come first,” he said.
No matter who wins, however, polls show neither party will have enough of the vote to control Parliament and would need at least one coalition partner to form a government, but the To Potami (The River) party running third said it wants no part of SYRIZA unless the Leftists support the reforms that Samaras hasn’t finished and the Troika has demanded, antithetical to Tsipras’ whole campaign.
Samaras said and his party were the guarantors of stability. “I want my fellow citizens who put their faith in me in the hard times over the past two-and-a-half years to be certain that today, but also on January 26, we will do everything that is necessary for the country,” he said.
Samaras’s call for “a serious approach from all sides” brought support from EU leaders who want him to stay in ower and keep implementing austerity and reforms and have ganged up on SYRIZA, leading critics to complain they are interfering in Greece’s sovereignty and politics.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose country has put up much of the loan monies but demanded austerity, dismissed SYRIZA and said even if the Leftists win they would have to follow Troika orders and stick to the memoranda signed by Samaras and his predecessor, former PASOK Socialist leader George Papandreou.
Schaeuble’s comments came amid a debate about whether the deals should be modified although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out the debt cut that is the nucleus of Tsipras’ campaign.
While all that was going on, a poll by Rass for iefimeriga.gr news website, the Athens-Macedonian news agency showed SYRIZA with a 4.3 percent lead. It has varied from 4-6.5 percent in the days leading up to the election.
The survey was conducted on Jan. 19-20 with the participation of 1003 voters and indicated that seven parties are likely to reach the 3 percent threshold needed to get seats in the 300-member Parliament.
SYRIZA led with 31.2 percent to 27 percent for New Democracy, 6.3 percent for To Potami, 5.5 for the KKE Communists, the ultra-far right Golden Dawn fifth at 4.5 percent. Samaras’ coalition partner, the once-dominant PASOK which won the 2009 elections with 44 percent were sixth at 4 percent, and the anti-bailout Independent Greeks (ANEL) bringing up the rear at 3.1 percent.
The Democratic Left (DIMAR) that was part of Samaras’ coalition until quitting after refusing to back worker hirings, has vanished off the political radar screen after keeping Fotis Kouvelis as its leader even though he had brought it to ruin.
Kinima, the new party formed by former PASOK leader and previous Greek Premier George Papandreou – who left the Socialist party founded by his father four decades ago – registered at only 2.2 percent and will not make it, the survey said, even as he reached out to SYRIZA for an alliance.
The survey also showed that 9.5 percent of respondents were still undecided.
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