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PM confident about coalition's future as Greeks vote in first round of local elections

People walk in front of European Parliament election posters of the Greek leftist SYRIZA party in Athens on Friday. Up to 350 million Europeans are eligible to vote in elections to the European Parliament taking place on May 22-25 in all 28 EU member states.

The country’s governing coalition may grow in numbers after the May 25 European Parliament elections, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Friday as Greece prepares for the first round of local polls Sunday.

With speculation growing about whether the New Democracy-PASOK government would be able to survive damaging results next Sunday, both Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos sought to allay any concerns about the coalition’s future.

“An increasing number of people realize that the current government has to complete its task and to see out its four-year term,” he 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. The prime minister also said he believes that Golden Dawn will gradually lose support.

A poll carried out by e-Voice for the paraskhnio.gr news website put ND at 23.1 percent and SYRIZA at 22.2 percent followed by the Olive Tree alliance that PASOK is part of at 7.3 percent. Alco put SYRIZA on 23.4 percent, ahead of ND with 22 percent. Olive Tree came fifth on 5.1 percent.

A poll by Palmos Analysis for TVXS.gr puts SYRIZA way ahead of ND 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 Thursday night took part in a five-way debate in Brussels with his rival candidates for the European Commission presidency. One of those, the conservative Jean-Claude Juncker, warned Greeks against voting for SYRIZA. 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.” “They have to understand that those days are gone and will not be coming back,” said the leftist party.

Tomorrow, Greeks will vote to decide who will run the 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 respectively. 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 Giorgos Kaminis, who has the backing of PASOK and Democratic Left, will be battling against New Democracy’s Aris Spiliotopoulos and SYRIZA’s Gavriil Sakelaridis. In Thessaloniki another independent, Yiannis Boutaris, will be hoping to hold on to his post, against the challenge of New Democracy-backed Stavros Kalafatis.

ekathimerini.com , Friday May 16, 2014 (20:10)  
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