ATHENS – With Greece’s political parties facing what could be a bitter battle over who will be the country’s next President in 2015, Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos is asking them to set aside their differences for the common good.
Venizelos is the leader of the PASOK Socialists who are the coalition partner in the government headed by Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras.
The major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which is opposed to the brutal austerity measures the ruling parties imposed on orders of international lenders has threatened to create an alliance to block the election of a new President to replace Karolos Papoulias next February.
Electing a President requires two ballots of 180 votes or more in support of a candidate, usually a compromise between rival parties, but the coalition has only 154 votes and SYRIZA, with 71 alone, could lead a serious challenge.
If the Parliament fails after three ballots to select a choice, a new body has to be elected and a new government with polls showing SYRIZA leading.
Venizelos, who was elevated to top posts after giving Samaras his votes although PASOK has floundered as low as 3-5 percent in polls, said there has to be a consensus.
Speaking to the Sunday Ethnos newspaper, he said, “…a fundamental condition for sketching a road map to a definitive exit from the crisis is to now respect and develop that message [of the need for political balance] which implies respect towards the country’s institutions, of which the top is the President of the Republic”.
The government wants to hold onto power until the next scheduled elections in 2016 and Venizelos said that, “PASOK… is not wavering strategically as far as the path of the country is concerned, neither does it accept lessons and suggestions, because it has proven in practice in a most painful way that it means what is says,” an indirect shot at the SYRIZA party to whom he was reaching out not to be strident.
“We face a double front. One front is against populism and the other is a front against pseudo-neoliberalism of the worst kind. And we do not accept swashbuckling from anybody,” he said, in decidedly unconciliatory tones.