NEWS

Samaras rules out snap polls

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday rejected calls by leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras for snap polls, accusing the opposition chief of seeking to destabilize the country amid the first signs of recovery, and expressing his conviction that Parliament will elect a president early next year despite the odds.

“Mr Tsipras once again sought early elections, precisely what the Greek people do not want and what international markets fear,” Samaras said following a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias who earlier had received Tsipras. “I had the chance to repeat… that there will be no early elections,” Samaras said, adding that it was his “deep conviction” that MPs would elect a president when Papoulias’s term ends in March, averting snap polls.“We have come far, way too far, to throw everything away,” Samaras said.

Earlier on Monday, Tsipras asked Papoulias to call a meeting of party leaders to decide on a date for early general elections and agree on a new presidential candidate that could be approved by MPs after the snap polls. “There needs to be a strong government with a powerful popular mandate,” Tsipras said, noting that a new administration could better negotiate with Greece’s creditors.

Papoulias, for his part, remarked that a “minimum consensus” for economic and political issues was required.

The government has been lobbying for an early exit from the memorandum, saying Greece can go it alone on capital markets and use some 11.5 billion euros in residual funding from the recapitalization of banks as an emergency cash reserve. On Monday a high-ranking European official indicated that new assistance would not be without conditions. “A completely clean exit is highly unlikely,” the official told reporters. “Whatever options we may be adopting, it will be a contractual relationship between the euro area institutions and the Greek authorities,” he said.

Officials are expected to reach a decision on this new relationship at a Eurogroup summit on December 8 though the matter is likely to be addressed at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Thursday.

Troika auditors are set to return to Athens once the government has sent them its final positions on pension and labor market reforms.