Antonis Samaras: The 'lightweight' who must lead his nation to stability

Samaras must prove himself at home and in Europe


If, as seems likely, Antonis Samaras becomes Greece's Prime Minister he will have done so despite a long period of political exile and the bitter opposition of much of the conservative elite that has held the reins of his party.

It was typical of the drama of politics here that the matriarch of the country's right-wing royalty, Marika Mitsotakis, died on the morning of the May edition of Greece's general election. The wife of former conservative premier Costas Mitsotakis and mother of former Foreign Minister and conservative heavyweight Dora Bakoyianni had told close friends that she did not want to live to see Mr Samaras take the top job.

He took the leadership of the conservatives in 2009 after forcing a nationwide primary against Ms Bakoyianni, who had been favourite to take over from Costas Karamanlis.

While the rivalry for leadership of the New Democracy party partially explains the enmity of the Mitsotakis family for the 61-year-old, he has struggled to win the trust of others on the centre-right. In establishment hang-outs like the Athens Club where Greece's most prominent families gather to talk politics, Mr Samaras is regarded as a "lightweight" with dangerous populist tendencies.

The new Prime Minister must prove himself more able than his old room-mate from Amherst College in the US, George Papandreou, to steer Greece out of its debt crisis, while balancing the demands of its creditors with the needs of the country's increasingly desperate people.

Hopes back in 2009, when Mr Samaras led the opposition and Mr Papandreou was premier, that the pair's shared past might ease the prospects for co-operation were dashed as Mr Samaras opposed the initial bailout deal from the troika – the EU, European Central Bank and IMF – and expelled Ms Bakoyianni for voting in favour of it. He used his spell in opposition to rail against the terms of that deal.

"He needs to show he can work across party lines," said Athens-based analyst Philip Ammerman. But while the Greek economy has unravelled, the New Democracy leader has picked fights across the spectrum.

When it became clear last year that Greece would need a second bailout he initially refused to support the measures demanded in return and came to be seen as obstructionist. He eventually gave in to international pressure to support the deal but only after two weeks of prevarication, which will sour his reception in Brussels and Berlin. At home, his ambition was blamed for pushing Greece back into elections after a unity government led by technocrat premier Lucas Papademos appeared to be making headway.

But his eventual decision to take an unpopular stance over the bailout and to keep Greece in the euro have given him some strength with which to seek concessions from Germany and the EU.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Austen Lloyd: Practice / HR Manager - Somerset

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare and exciting opportunity for a Practice...

Ashdown Group: HR Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A mainstream Secondary school in C...

Guru Careers: HR Administrator / Training Coordinator

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: An HR Administrator / Training Coordinator is requi...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'