Sunday

26th Jan 2020

Greek PM offers compromise on elections

  • "We cannot be swamped in an electoral battle right now,” Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said. (Photo: European People's Party)

Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras has offered to bring forward parliamentary elections and expand the government to independent MPs, in a bid to secure a majority for his presidential candidate.

Speaking in an unscheduled TV address on Sunday (21 December), Samaras insisted on the need to avoid early parliamentary elections in the coming months, but said they could take place "by the end of 2015".

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Samaras and his government have obtained a two-month extension of the country's EU and International Monetary Fund bailout program, whose terms of exit still have to be negotiated with international lenders.

He appealed to lawmakers’ “common sense”, saying it was vital to complete the negotiations in an environment of "calm and certainty."

"We cannot be swamped in an electoral battle right now,” he said.

The Greek political scene is anything but calm these days, after accusations of bribery to secure the support for Samaras' presidential candidate, former EU commissioner Stavros Dimas.

A first round of presidential votes in the parliament was 40 votes short of the required majority, with MPs on Tuesday having another attempt at electing the new head of state.

If a third attempt fails on 29 December, the parliament will be dissolved and early elections have to be organised, with EU politicians and markets spooked at the prospect of the far left Syriza party coming into power.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras wants the international community to pardon Greece's debt, just as Germany had its debt slashed after the Second World War.

Samaras rejected the bribery accusations and called on the independent MPs to back Dimas. He suggested that if the presidential elections are successful, the government "can expand with other people who believe in the European prospects of the country."

Following the first election attempt last week, Independent Greeks party MP Pavlos Haikalis said he was approached by someone in the "financial sector" who offered him a €3 million bribe to vote for Dimas.

Haikalis, a well-known TV actor, told reporters he handed over audio and video evidence to prosecutors. The Greek government maintains this as just "badly-acted theatre."

EU leaders have recently all-but spelled out whom they want to see elected in Greece, with EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker saying "known faces" should win, rather than "extreme forces."

For her part, German chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of an EU summit last week said she wants Greece to stay on a "stable path" and that she "wishes the presidential elections to succeed."

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