Samaras doubts referendum will take place

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras suggested to journalists Wednesday that he thinks it is unlikely that the referendum proposed by Prime Minister George Papandreou will be held.

Samaras spoke to reporters after telling his party?s MPs that the premier?s request for a plebiscite on the recent eurozone loan deal was a form of ?blackmail.?

?When you present multiple dilemmas, you are blackmailing, and when you blackmail you are not allowing the people to express themselves,? he said.

Samaras chided the premier for ?bringing home a deal that he reneged on just a few days later,? in reference to last week?s Brussels accord. ?Everything is up in the air,? Samaras added. ?Not even Mr Papandreou?s MPs want him,? he said, referring to one Socialist deputy quitting the party and expressions of dissent by several others.

After his speech, journalists questioned Samaras about what ND?s stand would be if the referendum goes ahead. His response was: ?Let?s see if it?s going to happen first.?

Sources said the conservatives believe the negative reaction within the eurozone and at the International Monetary Fund and the rifts in PASOK?s parliamentary group mean that Papandreou is unlikely to garner a parliamentary majority for his plebiscite proposal.

Samaras told his deputies that elections, rather than a referendum, were needed. ?We do not want elections just because of the clear discord between the people and the government but because danger is stalking this country,? he said. Elections would help Greece ?pass from the chaos of Papandreou to democratic stability,? said Samaras.

In the case that the referendum does go ahead, ND is considering reaching an agreement with the other opposition parties to ask their voters to abstain. If the turnout for the plebiscite is less than 40 percent, the result would be void.