ATHENS – Widening his lead on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives, major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras is trying to pressure lawmakers outside the ruling parties to make their intentions known on how they will vote for a Greek President in February, 2015.
New Democracy and its partner the PASOK Socialists have only 155 votes in the 300-member Parliament, a bare majority, but need 180 to elect their choice for a President or early elections will be called more than a year before their term runs out.
With surveys showing the anti-austerity SYRIZA opening its gap, Tsipras is moving to squeeze Members of Parliament and has already succeeded in getting Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos to pledge his party’s 14 votes to the Leftists’ 71.
With the Democratic Left (DIMAR), a former member of the coalition already indicating it would also not vote for the ruling parties nominee, that gives the SYRIZA alliance another 10 votes for a total of 95. That means Samaras and Tsipras will be wrestling over the remaining 50 and the coalition needs 25 of them.
Speaking at a meeting of SYRIZA’s central committee on Oct. 18, Tsipras claimed that by maintaining an “equivocal stance” on whether they would back the coalition’s candidate to succeed President Karolos Papoulias, MPs are fueling fears of last-minute back-room deals to ensure that the nominee is elected and early elections are avoided.
“For us the issue is not numerical, it is political,” he said. “It does not have to do with who is president, it has to do with the government no longer having the democratic legitimacy to continue destroying the country.”
Tsipras’s comments came as a survey conducted by the University of Macedonia showed that the Leftists are now 7.5 percentage points ahead of New Democracy after another poll last week gave them a 6.5 percent lead, and one earlier put it as high as 11 percent.
Tsipras is riding the crest of anger at the big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firing that Samaras implemented on orders of the country’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that is putting up 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two bailouts.
The opinion poll put SYRIZA at 27.5 percent, New Democracy with 20, To Potami 7.5, the extremists Golden Dawn 6.5, the Communist Party KKE 5.5, the Olive Tree alliance, which includes PASOK 4, ANEL 2.5 and Democratic Left (DIMAR) 0.5.
Compared to the previous survey by Macedonia University, which was a month earlier, the gap between SYRIZA and New Democracy has grown by 1.5 percent.
A Metron Analysis survey for Parapolitika newspape showed that support for SYRIZA is running at 32.9 percent against 26.1 percent for New Democracy, indicating how much Samaras and New Democracy are paying the price for changing his opposition to austerity while out of office to embrace it after he won in 2012, but without enough of the vote to rule outright.
The Macedonia University poll also found that a slightly larger proportion of Greeks (49.5 percent) believes that Parliament should not elect a new President than those (43 percent) who want it left in the hands of MPs, although the lawmakers are told how to vote or face ejection from their parties.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who is also Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister, argued it’s in the interest of voters to keep supporting the parties who ruined many of their lives.
He said that early elections and a subsequent SYRIZA-led government would be damaging for Greece. “At best it will prove to be a political fraud but there is the possibility of total disaster, the canceling out of people’s sacrifices,” said Venizelos. “It does not take a lot for the system to collapse.”
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