ATHENS – Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said there won’t be early elections before the term of his Administration runs out in two years, rejecting a call by the poll-leading major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which had asked Greek President Karolos Papoulias to call a council of political leaders.
Samaras said that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was trying to undermine the country’s burgeoning recovery from an economic crisis and that a new President to replace Papoulias will be elected by Parliament in February, 2015 although the Premier’s coalition government doesn’t have the votes yet.
Tsipras is stepping up the pressure on Samaras’ government of the Prime Minister’s New Democracy Conservatives and its partner the PASOK Socialists who have 155 votes in Parliament, 25 short of the 180 needed to elect a President. Failure to do so would trigger early national elections anyway.
“Mr. Tsipras once again sought early elections, precisely what the Greek people do not want and what international markets fear,” Samaras said following a meeting with Papoulias, who earlier had received Tsipras.
“I had the chance to repeat… that there will be no early elections,” Samaras said, adding that it was his “deep conviction” that MPs would elect a President when Papoulias’ term ends in March, averting snap polls.“We have come far, way too far, to throw everything away,” Samaras said.
Earlier, Tsipras asked Papoulias to call a meeting of party leaders to decide on a date for early general elections and agree on a new Presidential candidate that could be approved by MPs after the snap polls.
“There needs to be a strong government with a powerful popular mandate,” Tsipras said, noting his belief that a new administration could better negotiate with Greece’s creditors, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
“The country needs stability to proceed with the democratic process in an orderly manner, with unity and not in conflict, and present to the people two plans namely, continuation of the same policy or negotiation,” Tsipras said, the Athens News Agency reported.
He accused the Prime Minister of leading the country to prolonged tension until the election of the new President although it doesn’t have the majority in parliament to elect a new President, noting that “this is a destabilizing choice”.
Papoulias, for his part, remarked that a “minimum consensus” for economic and political issues was required.
Samaras is looking for an early exit from the memorandum with the Troika, which put up 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two rescue packages but insisted on, and got, harsh austerity measures in return, driving down the popularity of the ruling parties to the advantage of SYRIZA, which opposed the pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.
Samaras says Greece can forego what’s left of the bailout monies, coming from the IMF after the European funds run out this year, and return to the markets while using 11.4 billion euros of the rescue package money destined for bank recapitalization as a buffer and precautionary credit line.
But an unidentified high-ranking EU official said there would be conditions attached to new assistance, precisely what Samaras is trying to avoid.
“A completely clean exit is highly unlikely,” the official told reporters. “Whatever options we may be adopting, it will be a contractual relationship between the euro area institutions and the Greek authorities,” he said.
Officials are expected to reach a decision on this new relationship at a Eurogroup summit on December 8 though the matter is likely to be addressed at a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on Nov. 6.
Troika auditors are set to return to Athens once the government has sent them its final positions on pension and labor market reforms.
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