I have the strong feeling that since yesterday I live a Greek déjà vu experience. Components of the situation we face today that is the “political games vs snap elections” strongly remind me of summer of 2009, when then main opposition party PASOK was threatening the government of Nea Dimokratia that it would down-vote the Presidential candidate. At that time President of the Greek Republic was Karolos Papoulias, in fact former minister in PASOK governments, and the presidential election was scheduled for January/February 2010.
While PASOK was eager to grab the government chairs, Nea Dimokratia under Kostas Karamanlis was eager to leave the office under the pressure of a huge debt.
At the end of the day, elections were held in September 2009, PASOK won the elections, Nea Dimokratia mutated into main opposition party and both PASOK and ND voted for Papoulias second term in following winter.
Chances for Dimas slim
Nowadays we have a more or less similar situation: main opposition left-wing SYRIZA wants the government chairs at any cost, while Prime Minister Samaras seems take into consideration the political risk of going away.
Chances that Nea Dimokratia and PASOK will manage to get together the needed 180 votes for their Presidential candidate Stavros Dimas are slim. Or better say: chances are none. At least for the time being.
Right after Samaras announced the name of the candidate, opposition parties SYRIZA, nationalist Independent Greeks, left-wing Democratic Left and Communist KKE announced that they will not vote for Dimas.
The first three said that they have nothing against the person of Stavros Dimas but that they want new parliamentary elections. KKE traditionally does not vote for any President of the Hellenic Republic – and don’t ask me why…
As for neo-nazi Golden Dawn with 8 out of 16 MPs in custody awaiting trial, the parliamentary group issued a statement Tuesday night saying that the party will down vote Stavros Dimas.
Nea Dimokratia and PASOK have together 155 votes and need another 25.
Key for Dimas’ election: independent MPs
Under the current circumstances key for Dimas’ election are the 24 independent MPs but also some MPs from Independent Greeks and Democratic Left. These two parties do not do well in public opinion polls. Quite a number od Indepentent Greeks are not expected to win a parliament seat in the next elections, while DemLeft could hardly manage to pass the 3% threshold.
Already today, a couple of independent MPs expressed some vague intention to vote for Dimas, while some vehemently reject the election of the next President by the current Parliament.
Even if ND-PASOK get half of the independent MPs on their side, they will still not be able to push Dimas on the chair of the president.
According to some ill-intended rumors, independent MPs but also some of IndepGreeks and DemLeft were allegedly eager to vote for Dimas in order to stick to their Parliament chairs until summer 2016, when the official term of the current parliament and government ends.
Even if all 24 independent MPs let themselves being persuaded by the coalition government, still 2 votes would be missing for the third round of voting.
Maths vs Political Cost
Then getting together 180 votes for Dimas is not just a question of pure mathematics. It is a matter of political cost and attitude towards the loan agreements (Memoranda or Μνημόνια) and austerity bailout program in a society that has been drained out from over taxation, unemployment and recession.
Ιndepentend Greeks entered the Parliament in 2012 with an anti-austerity ticket. Would its voters cast a vote again for several MPs if they vote for the President and express support to further austerity that is most likely to last till 2017 after the bailout extension the Troika granted to Greece at the Eurogroup meeting on Monday?
For the moment, snap parliamentary elections seem inevitable.
ND’s “SYRIZA break”
But a crucial question remains: why PM Samaras took the political risk with Stavros Dimas? Why didn’t he pick up a personality from the center-left, for example, to challenge and divide left-wing parties?
I think it was some six months ago, when Nea Dimokratia officials were openly talking about a “SYRIZA break“, meaning that SYRIZA could rule the country for a short period of time as the hot potato of debt and negotiations with the Troika would explode in its hands. Then Nea Dimokratia would come back to the power…
Something similar had happened to PASOK PM George Papandreou who saw the public debt growing over his head right after he assumed power in October 2009 and was forced to leave office two years later, in November 2011, due to a chain of fatal crisis-management mistakes.
Is this what Nea Dimokratia and Samaras have in mind?
Very possible in a country of silly-sneaky and cunning politicians, hostages of their own brinkmanship, and petty interests running in circles in all eternity.
OK, there is also the leftist claim rumoring around that Samaras was relentless in the case of hunger-striker Nikos Romanos so that a fatal outcome would trigger riots and that this would give Samaras the excuse to fear-monger the people’s representatives in the Parliament….
PS Almost forgot to mention that George Papandreou had also to get off the chair of PASOK chairmanship…