ATHENS – Even as support for his front-running party is eroding, New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras said unless Greeks give him an outright win in May 6 elections so that he can control the Parliament, he will not agree to a coalition and could call for another election. Polls show that New Democracy is ahead of its bitter rival PASOK Socialists and Samaras told Axia newspaper that he would only agree to a unity administration on his terms, saying it would be “blackmail to impose on a party that wins the election to govern with those who have lost.” He said he doubted that PASOK wants to genuinely share power with New Democracy and the Socialists new leader, Evangelos Venizelos, has insisted that he wants to play a leading role in any coalition that is formed.
“What if we start together and then PASOK forces Mr. Venizelos to withdraw his support?,” asked Samaras. “That won’t just create a lack of governance, it will create a prolonged lack of governance and that is exactly what I want to avoid,” he added, reiterating what he told SKAI TV earlier about the tension between the parties. “I don’t trust PASOK,” adding, “I want to change Greece. I don’t want to divvy up ministries. I don’t want the forbearance of PASOK. I want the mandate of the Greek people.”
Meeting demands of international lenders, two years of austerity measures were forced on Greeks by the former Administration of previous PASOK leader George Papandreou, who resigned five months ago after incessant protests, riots and strikes fractured the Greek political system. Polls show as many as eight or nine parties could be represented in the next Parliament. With Greeks fleeing the major parties, PASOK and New Democracy – who supported the pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions while serving in a current shaky hybrid government – have desperately been trying to find ways to persuade voters to stay with them.
Samaras said he would try to renegotiate some of the terms with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) although the lenders said they would not allow it and that the next government has to abide by the measures or face a cut-off of aid. Samaras said he would lower taxes and raise pensions, although he supported raising taxes and cutting pensions, and that he would help beleaguered Greeks by passing a law that would limit their monthly loan repayments to no more than 30 percent of their income. The Parliament dissolved this week without acting on a deal to help relieve household debt. Samaras said he would not impose any new taxes to help Greece raise revenues, although the Troika said the next leader will have to increase taxes or find $15 billion in new spending cuts. Venizelos, as Finance Minister, doubled income and property taxes and taxed the poor.
Samaras’ comments about the unlikeliness of a coalition came just a few hours after a Public Issue opinion poll for Kathimerini and SKAI showed that PASOK and ND would not gather enough support to form a government on their own. The survey showed New Democracy had slipped to 19 percent and PASOK dropped slightly to 14.5. The two parties are likely to need at least a combined total of 36 percent, rather than the 33.5 percent they got in the Public Issue poll, to have a chance of forming a coalition. The Public Issue poll also indicated that nine parties would secure the minimum support of 3 percent needed to enter Parliament, making for a fragmented political landscape.
That also increased the odds of a second round of elections unless a third party wants to help form a coalition, further diluting Samaras’ power if he wins. The pro-European Democratic Left could be a candidate but speaking to SKAI Radio, its leader, Fotis Kouvelis, said it was highly unlikely the leftists could work with New Democracy and PASOK.
“New Democracy and PASOK choose to defend the policies they have implemented, so based on our political view it is not possible for us to discuss a coalition with these two parties,” said Kouvelis, whose party stands at 12 percent. “They are both a problem and we do not want to be an alibi for them. We will not take part in such a coalition government.” The far right-wing LAOS party, which briefly served in the coalition, paid a price as its support has fallen to just 3 percent, the threshold needed to keep seats in Parliament.
The three leftist parties – Democratic Left, the Communist Party (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) – garnered a combined total of 36 percent, slightly more than New Democracy and PASOK put together. But prospects for cooperation between the three are virtually non-existent, newspaper Kathimerini reported. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras suggested recently that the three leftist groups should work together so they can unite behind one candidate in single-seat constituencies but his offer was rejected. Kouvelis dismissed it as a “public relations trick.”