ATHENS – The former New Democracy minister, who was kicked out of the party for refusing to support austerity measures and formed her own political group that failed to win seats in the May 6 elections, has returned to the Conservatives, headed by Antonis Samaras, the man who defeated her for the party leadership and brought down her father’s administration as Prime Minister two decades ago.
Bakoyianni, widely heralded as the first woman to have a chance to become Prime Minister before Samaras beat back her bid to head New Democracy, had vowed she would leave politics if her Democratic Alliance party failed to win seats in Parliament, but said she changed her mind after Samaras offered her the chance to return.
With his party in a neck-and-neck race with the surprise second-place finisher in the elections, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) to win the June 17 polls, Samaras is desperately courting other parties for an alliance. But the Independent Greeks, formed of other New Democracy cast-outs, finished fourth in the elections and have refused to work with him. Samaras first told his party members to oppose austerity – leading to Bakoyianni’s departure – then support it so he could be part of a brief coalition government with his bitter rival PASOK Socialists. But now he opposes it again with elections looming and polls showing a wide majority of Greeks don’t want the pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions that came with $325 billion in two bailouts from the EU-IMF-ECB Troika.
Bakoyianni made her return very public, in a joint news conference with Samaras, where she attempted to smooth over their differences. If New Democracy wins or takes part in another coalition government, she stands the chance of gaining another ministerial post, having formerly served as Foreign Minister in the 2004-09 New Democracy administration that was soundly crushed in elections.
She said she expects other members of her party to also join New Democracy to bolster its ranks. “Our responsibilities concerning our past but more importantly concerning our future are significant. We must form a front of pro-European powers at this vital time. A front that will express those that are feeling the crisis. If we are to say that we put our country above ourselves, now is the time to prove it,” Bakoyanni said.
Samaras then took over, re-stating that his main goal was the creation of a pro-European front that would oppose populism and would lead the country to safety. He almost instantly attacked main opposition SYRIZA, which has soared on the backs of a pledge to fight the austerity measures. Samaras said, “We aim to help the country exit the crisis, stay in the Eurozone and the euro. SYRIZA will send the country into a deeper crisis.”
He said that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was wrong when he said that the 68 percent vote against New Democracy and their allies in a coalition government that supported pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, the PASOK Socialists, was a vote against austerity.
“Even voices that are friendly toward Greece say that negation of the memorandum is not an option,” he said, although with polls showing New Democracy and SYRIZA locked in a close battle to win he also wants to renegotiate the terms he signed.
Samaras also got two new members in Thanos Plevris and Giorgos Apostolakis, who abandoned the sinking far Right-Wing LAOS party that was briefly part of the former coalition but paid a price when it failed to win any seats in the Parliament, infuriating its leader, George Karatzaferis, as two of the ministers in the coalition, from his party, also defected.
Samaras said New Democracy, which during the last campaign staged only rallies for its own members, will hold a convention on May 26. The party’s policy and agenda will be outlined “launching the election campaign and marking the creation of a united front,” a relevant announcement stressed.
(Sources: Athens New Agency, Kathimerini)