Greece’s already-uneasy coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, and his reluctant partner, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos took another shot when PASOK leaders – including Venizelos – criticized former ND leader and premier Costas Karamanlis.
Led by former PASOK leader and previous Premier George Papandreou, who was hounded out of office in 2011 in the wake of unrelenting protests, strikes and riots against austerity measures he was imposing on the orders of international lenders, Socialist bigwigs at their party congress belittled their Conservative rivals.
Samaras and Venizelos have sought to play down the tension between the two parties, knowing that the government’s five-seat parliamentary majority is fragile and that the coalition might not survive an outbreak of infighting.
But that didn’t muzzle other ND officials who said they were incensed at the criticism of Karamanlis by Papandreou, Venizelos and former party leader and one-time premier Costas Simitis.
“How dare they moralize about public life when they destroyed the country?” said former Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, still a close associate of Karamanlis. Other New Democracy figures close to the former prime minister, Evripidis Stylianidis and Evangelos Antonaros, who is now an external adviser to the European Investment Bank, also hit back at PASOK’s criticism. Conservative deputy Andreas Lykourentzos joined the argument.
Sources told Kathimerini that there was pressure on Samaras from some New Democracy members to respond to comments from Simitis, Papandreou and Venizelos but he refused to do so. New Democracy’s only official response was through party Secretary Andreas Papamimikos. “The last person that has a right to criticize the New Democracy government is Mr. Papandreou,” he said. Karamanlis has been accused of lying about the country’s economic condition in 2009 when Papandreou unseated him and walked into a fiscal crisis.
In the summer, PASOK also reacted to criticism of its prime ministers, particularly the late Andreas Papandreou, at New Democracy’s congress. Samaras and Venizelos attempted then to ease the friction within the coalition. The brouhaha comes just before Samaras delivers his economic policy speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair on Sept. 7.
With his party sinking into oblivion with 5 percent of the vote after winning 44 percent four years ago, Venizelos eagerly jumped at the chance to become Samaras’ Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister in return for supporting the firing of all 2,656 workers at the former national broadcaster ERT and for piling more harsh austerity measures on Greeks.