The race for the May 25 European elections heated up Monday with parties confirming their candidates for the crucial vote and tensions rising as campaigning positions were thrashed out.
Conservative New Democracy, which heads the ruling coalition, is to announce its candidates Tuesday and is expected to strike a balance between candidates with a European background, moderates and MPs appealing to those further right of the political spectrum without touching the extremes. Clearly in pre-election mode, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said state buildings will be used to accommodate homeless people. The initiative is said to have angered PASOK officials who claimed not to have been consulted.
SYRIZA announced 34 of its 42 candidates following a meeting of the party’s central committee on Sunday with the remaining eight to be confirmed on Tuesday. SYRIZA’s candidates include constitutional expert Giorgos Katrougalos, documentary maker Stelios Kouloglou, Kathimerini columnist Nikos Xydakis, unionist Constantina Kuneva and labor expert Savvas Robolis. Party officials on Monday scrambled to curb the fallout from an attempt on Sunday by SYRIZA’s leftist faction to include in the party’s manifesto a plan for exiting the euro, in the event that negotiations with the troika under a SYRIZA government collapse. The proposal by the so-called Left Platform, led by MP Panayiotis Lafazanis was rejected. But the move served to underline the differences of opinion in SYRIZA, prompting both Lafazanis and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras to insist that the party was a seat for “democratic discussion” rather than division.
There were tensions between parties too, notably between veteran PASOK MP Dimitris Kremastinos and newcomer Stavros Theodorakis, a journalist who leads To Potami. When Kremastinos questioned the sources of campaign funding for To Potami, which is ranking third in opinion polls, a month after its formation, Theodorakis reacted tersely. “You’ve got to have a lot of nerve to question the low cost of To Potami’s election campaign when your party has saddled the Greek people with 140 million euros,” he said, referring to PASOK’s debts.
The right-wing Independent Greeks also unveiled its candidates including Zoe Georganta, an ex-employee of the Hellenic Statistical Authority whose claims that Greece’s budget deficit was inflated in 2009 led to a probe of the authority.