The coalition on Monday attempted to play down Sunday Kathimerini’s report that Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis is being lined up as a nominee for the Greek presidency but at the same time government officials expressed support for the idea of the 65-year-old leftist succeeding Karolos Papoulias early next year.
Government spokesperson Sofia Voultepsi said it was “premature” to start discussing who Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos would nominate for the presidency in the hope that the candidate could secure the minimum of 180 votes needed to be chosen, thereby sparing the need for national elections.
However, Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis appeared enthusiastic about the prospect of Kouvelis being put forward by the coalition.
“He is a politician that has served responsibly for many years, without engaging in divisive activities,” said the minister. “He is suitable for the role because the president must be a sober personality that can handle his institutional role. I believe he fits the bill 100 percent.”
PASOK MP Dimitris Karydis also seemed to favor Kouvelis’s potential candidacy. “We believe that among the people who could be picked for the role of president, Mr Kouvelis is one of those who could perform the job well,” said the Socialist official.
The speculation about Kouvelis’s potential nomination prompted reactions from within his party, with some backing the prospect and others vehemently opposing it, while the main leftist opposition SYRIZA roundly condemned it.
DIMAR press spokesman Christos Machairas suggested that the matter had been broached at an inopportune moment. “The presidential election is a serious political issue and must be weighed against the political climate of the time, and with the policies that are being exercised,” he said.
Sources indicated that DIMAR will decide on whether or not to support Kouvelis as a candidate in the coming months if the party sees a shift in the coalition’s policy away from austerity. Prominent MP Spyros Lykoudis stated outright that “Kouvelis would be a very good president.” But other lawmakers, including Yiannis Panousis, opposed the prospect. “DIMAR will vote down legislation and Fotis Kouvelis, as the president of the republic, will sign it,” he remarked.
In the SYRIZA camp, deputies appeared to share the party line in opposing a Kouvelis nomination. SYRIZA Euro MP Dimitris Papadimoulis said he hoped both DIMAR and Kouvelis would “not contribute to extending the life of a bad government and a disastrous policy.”