ATHENS – The major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has splintered over how to get early national elections, with some lawmakers breaking from the party line to thwart election of a Greek President in February, 2015.
Two SYRIZA lawmakers were forced to backtrack on statements they made in radio interviews which suggested the party might accept a deal to elect a new president in February if the government agrees to hold snap elections next spring.
“Regardless of whether the 180 [votes to elect a president] can be found, I think the government should take the decision to set a date for elections and reach an agreement on the date for such a vote, which could solve the deadlock over the presidential election,” said Giorgos Stathakis, the party’s chief economic adviser.
“I think this could be a consensual solution, which will free up the system and provide a political way out,” he said. Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner the PASOK Socialists need 180 votes in the 300-member Parliament to elect a President but have only 155.
Failure to name a President would force early elections with polls showing the anti-austerity SYRIZA building a growing lead while Samaras wants to hang on until the next scheduled national polls in 2016.
But SYRIZA, a motley collection of radicalists, anarchists, Communists, Leftists, ecologists and others has had trouble keeping a unified approach. MP Stavros Kontonis initially backed Stathakis’ proposal before he, too, had to recant.
“There is only one solution: This government has to go immediately,” said SYRIZA hardliner Panayiotis Lafazanis in Parliament. “We demand elections now. There will be no consensus over the Presidential election.”
Both Stathakis and Kontonis later issued statements of chastisement indicating their ideas were wrong and they were going along with the party line for national elections and then naming a President, which technically can’t happen with time running out before the balloting for the symbolic office three months away.
There was more tension in SYRIZA when MP Yiannis Milios slammed comments from his colleague Alexis Mitropoulos who said if SYRIZA can’t win an outright majority it will have to keep applying austerity, a complete reversal of all that party leader Alexis Tsipras has pledged.
“Anyone who thinks that there are any circumstances in which SYRIZA will follow the policies set out in the memorandum will have to examine their own stance and place within SYRIZA,” said Milios, one of the party’s representatives on economic issues.