ATHENS – The office of Greek President Karolos Papoulias said Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos had given the President a document offering to join a coalition government before talks broke down and was not telling the truth when he denied it.
Kammenos, a New Democracy outcast whose new party finished fourth among the seven parties winning seats in the stalemated May 6 elections, vehemently denied reports he had given Papoulias a document containing “various scenarios for the formation of a government,” nor had ever seen one, although acknowledging someone else in his office may have forwarded it. With the failure of the talks, new elections will be set for next month.
But Papoulias’ office released a statement contradicting Kammenos after the Independent Greeks leader accused the head of the President’s press office, Constantinos Bitsios, of lying in an initial report that Kammenos was trying to maneuver a deal for himself and would join a government in the event of a “national emergency” but only if he could appoint the Defense Minister and other top officials. The document was released to the media, leaving a red-faced Kammenos to stay out of the limelight and not refute it further.
Kammenos insisted he knew nothing about the document and suggested that footage of cameras in the Presidential Palace be checked to prove he did not give any documents to the President. Papoulias’ statement, however, confirmed that Kammenos gave the document to the President during their meeting on May 13 and asked him to forward it to other party leaders. This was supported by Communist Party chief Aleka Papariga, who met with Papoulias after Kammenos and was given a copy of the document, seeming to catch Kammenos in a bold lie.
Later on May 16, Kammenos told Real radio station that he would take legal action and complained he had been slandered and reiterated that he knew nothing of the document that Papoulias said he gave directly to the President. Kammenos repeated that the document forwarded by Papoulias’ office to other party leaders during the process of exploratory talks aimed at setting up a government had not been drafted by him. He also shifted his stance, adding that the positions set out in the document did not reflect those of his party.
Kammenos said he would lodge a legal appeal for an investigation to be launched into the “non-paper” that was sent to the other party leaders. He has not ruled out the possibility of the document having been produced by associates of his and noted that the document might have been sent by email to the office of Independent Greeks by “friends of the party” and to have “ended up in the debate by mistake.”
He accused Bitsios of lying. “It is not our document. Lots of strange things have happened. Mr. Bitsios lied to us,” Kammenos said, alleging that “The President’s office played a game,” to hurt his party. He said that he believed Papoulias himself might have been duped by his own staff. “We will resort to justice. They are slandering every voice that opposes the memorandum,” Kammenos said, referring to Greece’s debt deal with foreign creditors.
Kammenos had denied earlier reports that he had sent a proposal to Papoulias outlining his position on the formation of a unity government. “This document is not mine, it has never been submitted by Independent Greeks, it is not stamped nor has a protocol number, and I did not give it to the President,” Kammenos told Skai TV and said delivery of the document was a “provocation.”
Kammenos, whose party opposed austerity, had said he would not join a coalition, as did New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, whose party finished first, but with only 18.8 percent of the vote, not enough to control Parliament or form a government. Kammenos’ party got 10.6 percent of the vote, draining critical voters away from New Democracy. Samaras had booted him out of the Conservatives for failing to back austerity measures demanded by international lenders in return for rescue loans.
Samaras had earlier ordered his deputies to vote against austerity but changed his mind to get into a six-month coalition government that was formed after the previous government of then PASOK Socialist leader George Papandreou crumbled in the wake of protests, strikes and riots against pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions. PASOK, under new leader Evangelos Venizelos, finished a dismal third, behind the surprising surge of second-place Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA.) With the breakdown in coalition talks, political parties are already scrambling to prepare themselves for new elections amid fears a failure to form a government could lead to Greece being pushed out of the Eurozone of the 17 countries using the euro as a currency.