Facing a stiff challenge in next month’s European Parliament elections, the ruling New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras have set their list of candidates, this time including some new faces not connected to politics.
The major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has been leading in recent polls and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, said he believes his party will beat New Democracy in the European polls as well as elections for Greek municipalities a week apart.
But also cutting into the base of the traditional parties is the rise of the newly-formed populist anti-political To Potami (The River) which is drawing the support of intellectuals and academics and has been showing third in recent surveys, ahead of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn whose leaders have been jailed pending trial on charges of running a criminal gang.
In Greek politics, the party picks the candidates it wants on its slate and it’s based on selecting loyalists who will vote the way they are told by its leaders. For New Democracy, that’s headed by Greek soccer team captain Theodoros Zagorakis, composer Stavros Xarchakos, publisher Giorgos Kyrtsos and Mega TV political reporter Maria Spyraki.
In Greece, journalists are often an integral part of politics and some reporters work on the side for the people they cover, giving the country a reputation for deeply-biased reporting, with newspapers and TV stations siding with parties and tilting coverage toward what is favorable to its agenda and ignoring negative publicity.
Also running for New Democracy in a bid to be sent to Brussels and Strasbourg are current Members of Parliament at home, Manolis Kefaloyiannis and Costis Mousouroulis and the current Euro MP for LAOS, Niki Tzaveli.
Surprises included the candidacy of former television presenter and independent municipal councilor Giorgos Amyras as well as that of Giorgos Momferatos, a business adviser and the son of the publisher Nikos Momferatos, who was murdered by the terrorist group November 17.
Another unexpected development was the decision by Kyriakos Velopoulos, a former MP of the far right-wing LAOS which was the third party in a coalition headed by technocrat Lucas Papademos in 2011, not to run with New Democracy.
On his Twitter account, Velopoulos said that “after a lot of thought and in light of the reactions” to the prospect of his candidacy on an ND ticket, he had decided not to stand.
Samaras, who shook hands with each of the candidates at the central Athens hotel where the announcement was made, said in a speech that his administration, which includes its otherwise political rival the PASOK Socialists, had stabilized the country.
He said that a “vote for New Democracy is a vote for stability.” He also used the chance to attack SYRIZA for “trying to set the country back” and of not having a reason to exist without a its opposition to bailout deals with international lenders that came with harsh austerity measures that Samaras imposed after previously opposing them when he was out of office.