ATHENS – Falling behind the major opposition SYRIZA in polls and hoping to head off early elections and get a vote of confidence in Parliament, the ruling New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on October 4 will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its founding.
The event comes as Greek police said they had uncovered a plot by a militant group to try to plant a bomb as the government has been trying to track down terrorists who’ve vowed to overthrow the state, and arrested a major leader, Nikos Maziotis, who is in jail.
Samaras is using the occasion to try to revive the party’s spirits after a recent survey showed SYRIZA, which opposes the austerity measures he imposed on orders of international lenders, taking an 11-point lead and vowing to block any candidate from the coalition government that includes the PASOK Socialists in electing a Greek President in February, 2015.
That vote requires 180 of the 300 Members of Parliament and the coalition has only 154 together and would need to find a candidate suitable to at least 36 lawmakers opposed to the government’s austerity policies that have created record unemployment and deep poverty, driving down its popularity.
Samaras has called for a vote of confidence in Parliament the rulers are almost certain to win as they have a majority and nine members of the extremist Golden Dawn party are in detention awaiting trial on charges of running a criminal gang which means the government needs only 146 votes for a victory, even if it’s pyrrhic.
Samaras will be the sole speaker at the event, which will be held at the Onassis Cultural Center, not far from the New Democracy headquarters.
He is is expected to repeat his mantra that he’s creating a “success story” for Greece and brought it back to the edge of recovery after a crushing economic crisis, more than four years after successive administrations of PASOK and the coalition needed international bailouts to keep the country afloat.
Hoping to take away some of the pain of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings implemented on orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that put up 240 billion euros ($317 billion) in two rescue packages, Samaras will say he wants tax cuts and austerity relief – which the lenders have opposed so far.
He is also expected to present the key growth-inducing measures and reforms he hopes to bring as well as an early exit from the memorandum with the Troika, and try to stake the sting out of a biting new unified property tax called ENFIA that was based on flawed data and hit some taxpayers with 1000 percent increases and stoked more anger against the government.
EU funding ends in December, while IMF funding ends in 2016 and Samaras has vowed not to take a third bailout nor impose any more austerity as the policies he said saved the country have hurt his party and brought PASOK to the edge of oblivion fast.
During his speech, Samaras is also expected to play up the theme of Greece’s institutional revamp, mainly through plans for a review of the Constitution that could include changes in a range of areas such as party funding and trying to make politics more transparent, although PASOK and New Democracy owe banks 250 million euros in bad loans at the same time they want beleaguered Greeks to meet their debts to the state and banks themselves.
The event will be attended by former prime ministers Constantine Mitsotakis and Costas Karamanlis and other conservative veterans.
In a rare show of unity, it was announced that Theodoros Roussopoulos, former government spokesman under Karamanlis who, like the former Premier, has been nearly invisible the last five years, would also show up.