With the government still not in a position to elect a president, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras launched an all-out attack on SYRIZA on Thursday that was aimed to make independent and opposition MPs think twice about how they will vote when the ballot for head of state comes around.
“MPs have the great responsibility to decide whether to push the country forward or to let it roll backward,” said Samaras as he addressed New Democracy MPs in Parliament, as government sources admitted in private that the coalition cannot yet count on the support of the 180 lawmakers it needs to elect Stavros Dimas as the new president.
“Nobody will criticize Parliament if it elects a president because that is what the Constitution foresees,” he said in a thinly veiled message to independent lawmakers and those at Democratic Left (DIMAR) and Independent Greeks who are reluctant to support the government’s candidate because they fear a backlash from unhappy voters.
Samaras, though, reserved his heaviest weapons for SYRIZA, accusing it of scaring investors and threatening Greece’s position within the eurozone.
“Everyone knows now that SYRIZA’s strategy is to seek confrontation with Europe,” he said, claiming that “fear would reign across the country” if a president is not elected. “That would lead to a crisis in Greece. We spat blood in our efforts to stop foreigners using the term Grexit and now SYRIZA is bringing it back.”
Government sources, though, indicated that the coalition would be open to a renewed proposal to find a compromise, which would involve SYRIZA agreeing to elect a president now in return for Samaras agreeing to hold early elections at some point next year.
Samaras’s comments on Thursday, however, did not help relations between the two parties. “He is not afraid to plead with the markets to attack the country,” said SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis of the premier’s speech. “He is fooling himself, though, if he thinks the rehashing of euro exit fears will terrorize citizens, who are suffocating under the memorandum’s policies.”
SYRIZA announced that it will not take part next week in a parliamentary debate about changes to the Constitution, accusing the government of raising this issue now in an opportunistic bid to prevent early elections.