Moscovici to arrive in Greece amid uncertainty over elections
By Benjamin Fox
EU economics commissioner Pierre Moscovici will arrive in Athens on Monday (15 December), amid rising anger about Brussels interference in this week's presidential elections.
Moscovici’s visit is meant to focus on reaching agreement on the last economic reforms Greece must make before the final tranche of €1.8 billion from its €240 billion bailout is paid out - however the dynamics of the presidential election are set to take centre stage.
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Antonis Samaras’ governing coalition, led by the centre-right New Democracy party, brought forward the presidential elections this month in a bid to stave off early parliamentary elections that it fears could bring the left-wing Syriza opposition to power.
The vote will be held in the Greek parliament on 17 December. It could trigger parliamentary elections, if there are three failed attempts to elect a president.
The government is reliant on the support of several minor parties for its majority and has raised the spectre of Greece being forced out of the eurozone if Syriza takes power.
“Everything is hanging by a thread … and if it is cut, it could lead the country to absolute catastrophe,” said the deputy premier, Evangelos Venizelos, at the weekend.
The European Commission has all but endorsed the Greek government candidate.
In a TV debate last week Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned Greeks against electing “extreme forces”, adding that he would “would prefer if known faces show up”, an apparent reference to Stavros Dimas, the former EU environment commissioner, who is standing as the Greek government’s presidential candidate.
For his part, Moscovici has urged Greece to stick to the economic reform package it has agreed with its creditors, which Syriza has pledged to re-write.
In interviews with Greek media over the weekend, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras described the warning as "a tale of fiction" and accused Samaras of engaging in "a frenzy of fear-mongering".
Meanwhile, n a statement on Sunday (14 December), Pierre Laurent, President of the pan-EU Party of the European Left, which includes Syriza, said that the EU executive’s involvement “on the electoral process of a sovereign country is unbearable, and gives rise to serious questions for the future of democracy in Europe.”
“I call all democrats to express themselves against these authoritarian practices,” he added, noting that “the process must take its course, even toward parliamentary elections, if the ruling coalition does not obtain the necessary majority in the presidential election.”
A Kapa Research survey released at the weekend revealed that 57 percent want Dimas, who served as foreign minister between 2011 and 2012, to become the next president.
The left-wing Syriza party held a narrow leader over Samaras’s centre-right New Democracy party according to a poll by Alco published on Saturday.
Syriza would top the poll with 27.6 percent of the vote if parliamentary elections were held now, while Samaras's New Democracy party would obtain 24 percent.