Coalition partners to work on image of unity

With a series of internal disputes having tested the cohesion of the fragile coalition government, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his partners – PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left – are expected to focus on restoring a semblance of unity ahead of the anticipated return to Athens next week of troika mission chiefs.

The coalition leaders are likely to call a meeting next week – possibly before the scheduled arrival of the troika chiefs on Tuesday – to discuss issues ranging from pledges to creditors to differences of opinion on policy proposals as diverse as a crackdown on hate speech and a moratorium on loans for overindebted households. The possibility of a reshuffle in coming weeks is expected to feature on the agenda of talks.

The bid to find common ground comes after a series of internal rifts peaked earlier this week with a high-level clash between conservative New Democracy and PASOK and reports of Samaras’s anger at Venizelos’s stance. Sources close to Samaras accused PASOK of attempting to distance itself from many of the government’s policies, prompting the Socialist party’s secretary, Nikos Androulakis, to accuse ND of trying to “blackmail” its coalition partners. Meanwhile Democratic Left is looking to draw new members from the center-left, creating concern in the ranks of PASOK, whose support has plummeted.