Samaras casts conservatives as guarantors of country’s European course

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday cast New Democracy as a Europe-oriented party, following leftist SYRIZA’s overture toward the Communist Party (KKE), as the conservative pre-election campaign shifts its focus to the center ground and undecided voters.

On a visit to Peristeri, a working-class district in western Athens, Samaras hailed two late statesman – conservative Constantine Karamanlis and Socialist Andreas Papandreou – for securing Greece’s position in Europe and pointed to ND’s recent coalition with PASOK and Democratic Left which he called “an unprecedented alliance for Greece which was realized precisely due to that common denominator called Europe.”

The conservatives hope to capitalize on the fact that cadres of leftist SYRIZA, which is still leading in opinion polls, have been inconsistent on key issues including taxation and potential alliances. One encouraging detail for ND, according to sources, is that polls show most undecided voters wavering between a choice of ND, centrist To Potami and PASOK, not between ND and SYRIZA.

Samaras said the choice for voters was not one of parties. “On January 25, we are not choosing which party we want, we are deciding which Greece we want us and our children to live in.” Samaras, who was jeered by residents in Peristeri, said he understood people’s anger. “But I know that people who have gotten wet don’t also want to drown.”

In PASOK’s camp a row between leader Evangelos Venizelos and former Premier George Papandreou continued to simmer. Venizelos expressed surprise at Papandreou’s claim that he was unseated as PASOK leader in 2011. Venizelos said Papandreou had intended to propose him as a candidate for interim premier, a role eventually assumed by Lucas Papademos. “Between Petsalnikos and Papademos, he phoned me and said he would propose me as prime minister,” Venizelos said, referring to former Parliament Speaker Filippos Petsalnikos. “Would he propose as PM the person who unseated him?” he said.