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

Samaras must prove himself at home and in Europe

Athens

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
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Recruitment Genius: HR Consultant

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An HR Consultant is required to join thi...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable