Samaras appeals to MPs ahead of third vote as early elections loom

In an eleventh-hour effort to bolster the government’s candidate in a crucial presidential vote Monday that is likely to spark early general elections, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras made an appeal to undecided lawmakers over the weekend, saying snap polls would lead to “pointless upheaval” for the country.

In an interview with state TV NERIT which aired on Saturday evening, Samaras prodded MPs. Refusing to elect a president would be tantamount to “political blackmail,” Samaras said, adding that those who vote “present” in Monday’s ballot at noon would be “burdened with the responsibility” and would be “remembered by the people and chiefly by history.”

Citing a narrowing of leftist SYRIZA’s lead over New Democracy in opinion polls, Samaras said that early elections “suit me” but he would rather “lead the ship safely to harbor.”

He lashed out against SYRIZA for pushing for snap polls, saying most citizens did not want elections, and warning of “fatal perils” that the path of snap polls could bring amid eurozone jitters. Samaras accused SYRIZA of “foolish bravado,” adding that the party’s alternative economic program was full of “unilateral moves.”

The premier said authorities have “sweat blood” in recent years to keep Greece on its feet and warned against years of sacrifices being lost.

He repeated his calls for a consensus on the president, negotiations on Greece’s debt and early elections at the end of 2015.

Despite government efforts, the 180-vote minimum required to endorse Dimas, and put off snap polls, appeared out of reach over the weekend.

With early elections looming, political parties are preparing campaigns and candidate lists. PASOK in particular is in upheaval as former party leader and ex-Premier George Papandreou is expected to announce a new party next week.

Samaras’s appeal came as SYRIZA insists it will seek to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s bailouts as well as a writedown of the country’s debt. In an article in the party’s mouthpiece Avgi to be published Sunday, Tsipras indicates that SYRIZA would not negotiate its economic program with creditors. “SYRIZA’s national effort will have international repercussions as our historic responsibility is to open the way for an alternative policy in Europe, transforming a eurozone country from the subject of a neoliberalist experiment to a model for social protection and growth,” he said. In a separate interview in the Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper, SYRIZA MP Giorgos Stathakis said the leftists, if elected to power, would seek “a comprehensive renegotiation of the debt, without unilateral action.”

SYRIZA’s intentions appeared to be rejected out of hand by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who told Saturday’s Bild newspaper that any Greek government would have to honor existing agreements. “New elections won’t change anything about Greece’s debts,” he said. “Any new government must abide by the legal agreements of its predecessors.” Schaeuble said he would support Greece on its “path of hard reforms” but that “it will be difficult” if Athens chooses another road.