PM to make final plea to MPs ahead of critical third vote on president

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to make one last public appeal to wavering MPs to back his presidential candidate, Stavros Dimas, but will not offer anything more in exchange than he already has, Kathimerini understands.

Samaras has to find another 12 votes to secure Dimas’s election in the third and final round on Monday after 168 MPs backed the candidate in Tuesday’s vote. Eight more independent lawmakers backed Dimas than in the first ballot but that still leaves the government needing support from Democratic Left (DIMAR) and Independent Greeks deputies.

Kathimerini understands that Samaras may make a public address on Sunday, as he did last Sunday, to repeat his offer of introducing independent and opposition MPs into his cabinet and holding elections toward the end of next year if Parliament elects a president on December 29.

After Tuesday’s vote, though, the premier took a tougher line with MPs who are so far refusing to back the government’s candidate. “The third ballot will not be one where they can just vote present,” he said. “There will be names and surnames. Each MP will have to face up to Greeks’ concerns and the country’s interests.”

It is thought that in his TV address, Samaras will highlight the possible negative consequences of failing to elect a president and going to snap elections. However, government sources said he will not set a specific date for snap elections next year as part of his compromise toward MPs who might switch their support at the last minute.

The government hopes to pick up the votes of Niki Founta, who quit DIMAR on Tuesday, as well as a couple of independents in the final round. However, coalition sources said there is an acceptance that the chances of drawing the seven to 10 votes needed from DIMAR and Independent Greeks are not strong.

In the ranks of SYRIZA, officials are all but certain that the government will be unable to garner the required 180 votes in the third presidential ballot and avert snap polls. Speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s vote, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras declared that “neither Parliament nor the people will give Mr Samaras a mandate to continue with memorandums.” “In the new year, the country will turn a page, with democracy, with a strong popular mandate for real negotiation.”

The leftist opposition is now preparing for the government to intensify its rhetoric of the risks that a potential SYRIZA government will bring, sources said.

New Democracy and PASOK are also in pre-election mode, with the junior coalition partner facing a fresh headache due to the planned creation of a new party by former party leader and ex-Premier George Papandreou. A last-ditch attempt by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos to bring Papandreou back into the fold on Tuesday failed to lead anywhere.