In what should be a tense duel, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives will go head-to-head with the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) on May 25, after the government said municipal elections will be held then to coincide with the ballot for seats in the European Parliament.
Samaras and his coalition partner, the PASOK Socialists, have seen their support dwindle because of their implementation of harsh austerity measures demanded by international lenders in Greece.
During a meeting of SYRIZA’s central committee on Feb. 1, party leader Alexis Tsipras appeared confident of victory in the ballots which he described as “a referendum against the government of the memorandum.”
That was a reference to deal successive governments signed with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) for two bailouts of $325 billion that will run out this year.
Tsipras, who has said he would revise or renege on the Troika deal that required big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, has offered no clue how he would govern without the rescue loans. His party, however, has taken the lead in recent polls that show PASOK on the verge of extinction, eroding the coalition base.
He has been pressing Samaras to call snap elections but the Premier ruled out any coalition with SYRIZA and said he would serve out his term until 2016 but Tsipras said the ruling parties will be repudiated in May and he will come to power before then and the jockeying for power has been big Greek news for months.
Tsipras said Samaras was in a panic mode, having only a three-vote majority in the 300-member Parliament and with a secret meeting of Troika officials who said they are anxious about delayed reforms and the state of the economy even though the government said it expects a one billion euro ($1.37 billion) primary surplus that doesn’t include interest on debt.
“His fear cannot be disguised. And this fear – which is the fear of the vested interests that he represents – dictates spasmodic reactions, spasmodic policies, spasmodic tactics, spasmodic propaganda,” Tsipras said.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou blasted what he called SYRIZA’s “insults and slander.” PASOK accused Tsipras of “demagoguery” and said Tsipras has tied his political fate “to the existence and perpetuation of the memorandum. Without it, he has nothing to say,” it said.