NEWS

Greek party leaders get election campaigns under way

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is due to meet President Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday to ask for Parliament to be dissolved, ushering in one of the briefest election campaigns Greece has ever known before national polls are held on January 25.

Preparations for snap elections were in full swing at New Democracy headquarters on Monday after MPs failed to elect a new president in the third and final vote.

The government’s candidate, Stavros Dimas, attracted 168 votes when a minimum of 180 was required. The result was exactly the same as in the second round of voting, prompting Samaras to say in a televised address that the responsibility for untangling Greek politics has now passed to the country’s voters.

“It is now time for the Greek people to do what Parliament failed to,” he said. “They are being called on to banish uncertainty and re-establish stability.”

Samaras also made specific references to his role in what is seen as an indication of New Democracy’s aim to build on the fact that Samaras has stronger personal ratings than SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras.

“I am here to ensure that we do not allow anyone to put in danger or doubt Greece’s position in Europe,” he said.

The prime minister also suggested that New Democracy’s campaign would focus strongly on countering SYRIZA’s argument that it can negotiate better terms with the eurozone. “In the four weeks until the elections, people will learn the whole truth so they can decide about their future in the most crucial elections of the last decades,” said the premier.

New Democracy’s executive secretariat is due to meet on Tuesday afternoon and the drawing up of candidate lists is already under way. The conservatives have also hired the advertising agency that will be responsible for getting their campaign message across.

Tsipras also wasted no time in starting his party’s campaign. He spoke at a cinema in Kerameikos, central Athens, on Monday and predicted that New Democracy and PASOK would try to scare Greeks into voting for them.

“They will use lies, monstrous lies about SYRIZA, its intentions and its policies,” said Tsipras, who claimed that Samaras “belongs to the past.”

Mindful that some Greeks are concerned about the prospect of SYRIZA coming to power, the opposition leader also pledged to guarantee all bank deposits. He did not provide further details about his plans.

One loose end regarding the upcoming elections will be whether ex-Prime Minister George Papandreou goes ahead with his plans to form a new party. Sources suggested on Monday that the former PASOK leader would not make his move until after New Year’s Day. Some of his aides are against the idea of launching a party now, especially given that the election campaign will last for just 26 days.

A number of PASOK MPs and former party officials publicly declared their opposition to Papandreou’s plans but sources said that Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos will not dwell on the subject.