BERLIN — Germany’s Finance Minister says any new Greek government would have to stick to agreements made by its predecessors — comments that come as Greece risks early elections that could topple Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government and bring the anti-bailout major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party to power.
The Greek government has a third and final chance Dec. 29 to get a new President elected. If it fails, Parliamentary elections will be called with polls showing that SYRIZA, which wants to revise the terms of two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($306 billion) from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) or walk away from the debt would likely win.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told the daily that he’ll continue to support Greece on its “path of hard reforms” but if Athens chooses another road, “it will be difficult.”
Schaeuble said that “new elections won’t change anything about Greece’s debts. Any new government must abide by the legal agreements of its predecessors.”
Germany is the biggest contributor to the rescue packages but has insisted on harsh austerity measures that drove former Premier and previous PASOK leader George Papandreou out of office after relentless strikes, protests and riots, and has decimated support for Samaras’ coalition of his New Democracy Conservatives and the Socialists.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has begun to soften his rhetoric of a unilateral default if the Troika doesn’t let Greece write off a good chunk of its debt but his stance against the tough conditions of the bailouts, the pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings have made investors jittery he may walk away from the debt even if Germany or the lenders take their case to European courts.
Samaras is hoping the Parliament will elect his party’s Vice-President, Stavros Dimas, as the country’s symbolic President. It will take 180 votes in the third and last round. Dimas got 160 votes in the first ballot and 168 in the second when the threshold was 200 and now needs just 12 to go over the top.
If he is not elected, the government will have to call early national elections, likely either in late January or in February, just as it is locked in tough negotiations with the Troika over unfinished reforms and how to close a hole in the 2015 budget of as much as three billion euros.
The political instability and uncertainty over the election has roiled the markets in Greece and Europe and led Samaras to warn that unless he’s kept in power that a SYRIZA victory would undermine a burgeoning recovery from a crushing economic crisis.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)