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ATHENS – Greek Premier and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, and his coalition partner, PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos, have teamed in a last-minute effort to convince enough lawmakers to support their candidate for Greek President, Stavros Dimas, to win a last crucial vote on Dec. 29.

Dimas, the New Democracy Vice-President, got 160 of the 300 votes in Parliament in a first round and 168 in a second, when the threshold was 200. The final vote on Dec. 29 will require 180 votes and if the government fails then early national elections will be called, likely for late January or early February.

With the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which is opposed to the austerity measures the government imposed on orders of international lenders, leading in polls, a failure elect Dimas could mean a change of administrations just as negotiations are going on with the country’s creditors over unfinished reforms and a hole in the 2015 budget of as much as three billion euros.

Samaras and Venizelos sounded a warning bell that a SYRIZA win would create a run on the banks and yank Greece out of the Eurozone and into economic collapse, which the Leftist leader, Alexis Tsipras, dismissed as scare-mongering, predicting he will come to power.

With so much at stake, Samaras and Venizelos – who is also his Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister – were busy over Christmas sounding out Independent lawmakers and those in rival parties, pleading for votes with the message a Presidential defeat could lead to chaos, even though many MPS have voted consistently against pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings the government implemented.

The ruling parties have only 155 votes between them and in the first two rounds picked up 13 others but are still 12 short of meeting their mark, although Samaras had at first appeared increasingly confident he would make it but now is growing more doubtful.

The attempt was rocked though by reports that New Democracy was seeking support from the 18 MPs of the extremist Golden Dawn party who have been arrested on charges of running a criminal gang and are being prosecuted by the government.

Two Golden Dawn MPS did vote for Dimas in the second round, sparking a response from him that he would refuse to dtake the seat if the ultra far-right party backed him, and leading Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis from New Democracy to say he – and likely many others from the party – would the vote “Present” and defeat to their own candidate.

Samaras and Venizelos have been meeting with lawmakers on the fence trying to ascertain their feelings, worried that most of the 12 lawmakers in the rival Independent Greeks (ANEL) who have voted against government policies will stick together although some have said they may go along with Dimas to keep political stability.

ANEL chief Panos Kammenos had backed allegations from one of his MPs, former TV actor Pavlos Haikalis, that he’d been offered a bribe up to two million euros to vote for Dimas, which a prosecutor dismissed as groundless. It was the second time ANEL had made a similar charge but both were declared unfounded although no one was prosecuted for it.

Kathimerini said that Samaras likely will go on national TV again on Dec. 28 to address the public and highlight the dangers of a Presidential defeat and not keeping him in power. He used that device on Dec. 21 to promise he’d bring rival MPs into his Cabinet and set national elections at the end of next year instead of the next scheduled round in 2016 if they would back him.


The post Samaras, Venizelos In Last-Ditch Presidential Pitch As Vote Looms appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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