Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said his New Democracy Conservatives and coalition partner PASOK Socialists will hold together to win elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament, but hinted he might need to bring another party into the administration.
The municipal elections on May 18 will decide races for mayors, regional governors and other offices and polls show New Democracy has a slight lead over the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) that is opposed to the austerity measures Samaras imposed on the orders of international lenders.
Surveys for the May 25 ballot for the European Parliament, however, show SYRIZA with a bigger lead than New Democracy has in the local races and all the polls show PASOK fading to the bottom despite tying itself to a new center-left political movement of intellectual and academics called Elia, or Olive Tree.
The local elections will have a second round on May 25 as well.
With speculation growing about whether the New Democracy-PASOK government would be able to survive damaging results in the European polls, Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who is his Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister, said the coalition would hold but need might help.
“An increasing number of people realize that the current government has to complete its task and to see out its four-year term,” Samaras said in an interview with Proto Thema newspaper. “Even MPs who did not vote with us recently can see this.”
It was not clear if Samaras was referring to Democratic Left (DIMAR) and its 14 MPs, which left the government in 2013, or some of the independent lawmakers, who now number 20. He also said he believes that the ultra-far right Golden Dawn will gradually lose support.
The extremists have been running in a tight race for third with the new populist, anti-political movement called To Potami (The River) that was formed by former TV presenter Stavros Theodorakis.
Venizelos, under siege in his own party for taking it to 3-5 percent support, had warned the government could not stand without him, leading critics to say he was trying to blackmail voters with fear-mongering that a SYRIZA win could undermine the government and lead to early national elections before 2016.
A poll carried out by e-Voice for the paraskhnio.gr news website put New Democracy at 23.1 percent and SYRIZA at 22.2 percent followed by the Olive Tree alliance at 7.3 percent. Alco put SYRIZA at 23.4 percent, ahead of ND with 22 percent. Olive Tree came fifth with 5.1 percent.
A poll by Palmos Analysis for TVXS.gr puts SYRIZA way ahead of New Democracy with 25.4 percent to the Conservatives’ 20.3 percent. PASOK’s alliance was in fifth with 4.9 percent.
Venizelos also ruled out the possibility of snap elections but warned voters that they would have to send a clear message at the ballot box. “Citizens should know that their votes will be interpreted in various ways,” he said on Alpha 98.9 FM. “It is up to them to vote in a way that is not open to interpretation.”
Samaras and Venizelos also launched attacks on SYRIZA and its leader Alexis Tsipras, who on May 15 took part in a five-way debate in Brussels with his rival candidates for the European Commission Presidency.
One of the candidates, former Eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker who helped oversee 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion) in two bailouts from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), also warned Greeks not to vote for SYRIZA, which opposes the pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that Juncker backed.
He told Euro2day.gr that Tsipras was not suitable to be prime minister and that he would have a fraught relationship with the European Union, which would “be a big danger for Greece.”
SYRIZA responded by claiming European officials were “used to dealing with Greek prime ministers that were subservient,” and said: “They have to understand that those days are gone and will not be coming back.”
Voters will pick candidates running in country’s 13 regions and 325 municipalities. New Democracy is backing ex-MEP Giorgos Koumotsakos and former basketball coach Yiannis Ioannidis for the country’s two main governorships, Attica and Central Macedonia, Greece. PASOK is supporting incumbent Yiannis Sgouros in Attica, while SYRIZA is hoping the ex-MP Rena Dourou will be able to spring a surprise in the Greater Athens area.
In Athens, independent Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, who has the backing of PASOK and DIMAR, will be battling against New Democracy’s Aris Spiliotopoulos and SYRIZA’s Gavriil Sakelaridis, as well as Golden Dawn’s spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, who, along with his party’s other 18 lawmakers, has been arrested and charged with running a criminal gang.
In Thessaloniki another independent, Yiannis Boutaris, will be hoping to hold on to his post, against the challenge of New Democracy-backed Stavros Kalafatis.