The possibility of Greece holding snap general elections by early next year grew on Friday after SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras made it clear in Parliament that his party would oppose any candidate put forward by the government to take over from President Karolos Papoulias when his second five-year term expires in early February 2015.
“Understand this: The next president of the republic will be elected by a parliament in which SYRIZA and the forces that are fighting against the [EU-IMF] memorandum and destructive policies will have the majority,” said Tsipras.
This suggests the leftists would not be willing to support any candidate put forward by the coalition, even one that is respected by the left. Given that the government could definitely not count on the backing of the Communist Party and Golden Dawn, if SYRIZA and Independent Greeks were to vote against the candidate, he or she would not receive the three-fifths majority (200) seats needed in the first two rounds of voting and would struggle to get the 180 votes required in the third and final ballot.
Failure to elect a new president would trigger national elections. The government was hoping that SYRIZA and other opposition parties would not reject a candidate with universal appeal. Composer Mikis Theodorakis recently rebuffed an overture by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos for him to consider the position.
However, SYRIZA sources also claimed that the government has approached Papoulias about the possibility of stepping down before completing his tenure. The leftists say the government is examining this option in case it wants to catch the opposition out by forcing general elections on its own terms.
Sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras rejected the claims, describing them as “laughable.”
Papoulias issued a denial on Friday as well. Through his aides, he let it be known he has every intention of seeing out his term, even though he said during comments on Thursday, “This will be my final year.” Papoulias’s advisers attributed this to a slip of the tongue.
Tsipras is due to speak at an event organized by the Dutch Socialist Party on Satursday in the Netherlands. Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou accused him of “making a pact with the devil to damage Greece.”