Snap polls likely in Greece after April 15: Samaras
AFP ATHENS EARLY elections in Greece will be held “immediately” after Orthodox Easter on April 15, the head of the conservative party that supports the government coalition said on Sunday.
“Elections will be immediately held after Easter,” New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras told a party gathering.
Elections in Greece are traditionally held on a Sunday, and Samaras’ statement means that the vote will be set as early as April 22.
The coalition government, which mostly includes ministers from the socialist Pasok party, has yet to name a specific date.
The socialists are to elect a new leader next Sunday, with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos set to take the helm. Greece’s coalition, headed by former European Central Bank deputy Lucas Papademos, was formed in November to complete a bond swap with private creditors to make Greece’s huge debt sustainable, and clinch a new 130-billion-euro ($173- billion) eurozone bailout to avert a looming default on March 20.
The first task was completed on Friday, when banks and investors agreed or were obliged to exchange over 100 billion euros in debt.
“The targets set in the last five months have been achieved,” said Samaras.
Eurozone finance ministers immediately unblocked part of a second aid package of 130 billion euros and were expected to approve the rest in the coming week.
The government is expected to conclude its mandate by April 12, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said on Friday.
Bonds issued under Greek law will be swapped on March 12, while foreign-law obligations will be exchanged on April 11. And Greece’s parliament is to ratify the eurozone bailout by the end of March.
“Parliament must remain open to ratify the (bailout)..
Around the end of March the task will be complete,” Kapsis told private television station Skai. “The bond swap will be complete by April 12 and the government’s task will be over,” he said.
Under the Greek constitution, elections must be held within 30 days of the parliament being dissolved.
Samaras’ New Democracy party comfortably leads opinion polls.
But its ratings have suffered from its four-month stint in government when additional austerity measures were approved over prior salary and pension cuts imposed over the past two years.
The conservative leader insisted on Sunday that a “strong” government instead of a coalition was needed to take Greece to economic recovery.
“We do not pursue any form of power-sharing,” he said. “I cannot change things if I need to step on delicate balance of a coalition...I want my hands free so that the country can get back to its feet,” said Samaras, who has criticised the austerity reforms mandated by the EU and the IMF as too focused on cuts, and not enough on growth.
Legislative elections were originally to be held in 2013, but socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou stepped down halfway through his term in November to make way for Papademos’ coalition government.