Samaras Says No Snap Elections

ATHENS – With his coalition partner, the PASOK Socialists, in turmoil after backing a unified property tax and agreeing to partially lift a ban on foreclosures they imposed two years ago, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, said his dual administration is still strong enough to survive any unpheaval and will last out its term for two more years.

The government got a narrow vote in the Parliament with 152 out of 300 votes but now PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos is being challenged in his own by a handful of lawmakers who think he’s going in the wrong direction by backing austerity measures and fear it will lead to a call for new elections and the end of the party itself.

Samaras dismissed the idea and said that his ejection of party veteran Vyron Polydoras for defying orders to vote for the measures insisted upon by international lenders would not create the need for snap polls.

The government is now down to only a three-vote majority in the 300-member Parliament, 26 less than when it took office with a coalition last year that brought in the Democratic Left (DIMAR) which left in a dispute over the firing of workers at the now-closed national broadcaster ERT, which was all over the Greek news.

But while Samaras is secure, Venizelos, who was made Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister for backing the Premier,  is trying to calm unrest from disgruntled party members fretting that under his control and acquiescence to austerity the once-dominant Socialists are at five percent in polls.

“The elections will happen in 2016,” said the premier’s aides, dismissing speculation that the government would not last much longer without getting a vote of confidence from voters. Samaras is said to be confident he can make Greeks believe a deep recession will end sometime in 2014, the seventh year of a recession that has seen record unemployment and poverty.

Venizelos, giving in to pressure, has changed his mind proposed holding a joint conference at the end of June with The 58 Initiative of intellectuals, academics and others who want to unify Greece’s fractured left before the European Parliament elections in May.

The PASOK leader said he was committed to changing “old-style party practices” but, as his practice, spoke only in broad, vague platitudes and did not give more details.