By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens
Greek Premier Antonis Samaras and coalition partner, PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos agreed to change the election law during a meeting held over the weekend, ahead of European Parliament elections in May.
The two men agreed on a new voting system replacing proportional representation on which candidates are elected through allocations on the electoral list.
Voters will elect candidates from a list as is the case in national election is Greece. However, it wasn’t decided how many candidates each voter will be able to pick.
Samaras and Venizelos also spoke of raising the MEP candidates for every party to 42, double the number of MEP’s eventually elected (21) to represent the country in the EU institution.
The new system is expected to take effect for the elections in May without danger of being rejected in Parliament as changes made to the EU electoral law require a simple majority in the Greek parliament, opposed to the qualified majority (3/5 majority) needed to change the electoral law for national elections.
Government sources maintain the changes to the system will allow for fresh candidates to enter the European Parliament, with closer ties to society rather than political parties.
The plan came under fire from main opposition SYRIZA. The party announced “the planned changes to the European Parliament election law are another helpless attempt by the two party coalition to avoid the forthcoming election disaster (…) In reality, the governing coalition partners are turning to party armies in search of votes for candidates that will fight to save a government that is crashing to defeat under the weight of its failure”.
The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) added that Conservative New Democracy and Socialist PASOK are terrified to debate the future of Europe and proposals to exit the crisis and this is why they are turning the election into a battle of “characters”.
Criticism leveled at the government by the opposition is not far off the truth as it is evident in recent polls that the New Democracy and PASOK parties are falling behind ahead of the May election battle as they pay the price of austerity fatigue.
PM Samaras recently stated the election will be a “test for democracy” while Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos expressed concern about the rise of Euroskepticism.
As SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras – also a European Left candidate to be the next President of the EU Commission – tours Europe enhancing his image as a leading opponent of Greece’s austerity politics and of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his party hopes to bring home a highly symbolic victory over Samaras’s conservatives that will pressure the latter to call an early general election this year.