Samaras, Venizelos in drive to muster 180 votes

Coalition leaders Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos have been busy over the holiday period in a bid to win over lawmakers in Greece’s 300-seat Parliament to vote for their presidential candidate in the third and final ballot on December 29. The government needs 180 votes to approve former EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas and avert an early general election, 12 more than it managed to gather in the second ballot on Tuesday.

The leaders of New Democracy and PASOK have been meeting with independent MPs as well as parliamentary officials from the main opposition parties in a bid to ascertain how Monday’s vote may swing, Kathimerini understands.

Sources in Prime Minister Samaras’s office have expressed their concern that the 180-vote target may be difficult to attain after several MPs of Democratic Left have voiced their backing for leftist opposition SYRIZA and the coalition is unlikely to gather any support from the nationalist Independent Greeks in the wake of allegations made by one its lawmakers that he was offered a bribe to back Dimas. The allegations were investigated and deemed unfounded.

The same sources also suggested that Samaras is preparing a public address ahead of Monday’s vote to highlight the dangers of snap polls, following a compromise solution he extended early in the week for elections by the end of 2015.

The prime minister’s office was also quick to quash rumors that the government has been in talks with lawmakers of far-right Golden Dawn after two MPs who left party – which is under investigation for criminal activities – cast their ballot in favor of Dimas on Tuesday.

“In respect of the democratic institutions, under no circumstances would I accept to be elected President of the Republic with votes from Golden Dawn,” Dimas is quoted as saying.