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Greek Lawmaker Alleges Bribe Offer in Vote
From the Wall Street Journal of Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:14:01 EST
Pavlos Haikalis’s allegations come two days after the first round of voting, when the ruling New Democracy’s candidate for president, Stavros Dimas, failed to win enough support to be elected.
Pavlos Haikalis’s allegations come two days after the first round of voting, when the ruling New Democracy’s candidate for president, Stavros Dimas, failed to win enough support to be elected. Zuma Press

ATHENS—A Greek lawmaker from the small, right-wing Independent Greeks party said in a news conference Friday he was offered a bribe to back the government’s candidate in the country’s presidential vote.

The allegations come two days after the first round of voting, when the ruling New Democracy’s candidate, Stavros Dimas, failed to win enough support to be elected. To meet the vote threshold and avoid snap elections, the current coalition government will have to rely on votes from smaller-party lawmakers, such as those with the Independent Greeks.

Pavlos Haikalis, an actor and Independent Greeks member, didn’t name who allegedly offered him the kickback, but described the person as a “middleman” and not a member of either of the two parties that form the coalition government. He said the man had worked for a Greek bank until July and had served as a financial adviser for New Democracy and for Mr. Haikalis’s Independent Greeks party.

Based on the descriptions, major Greek media outlets identified the person as Giorgos Apostolopoulos.

In a statement late Friday, Mr. Apostolopoulos denied the allegations and said he was “surprised and enraged” to be involved in “political vendettas.” He said he was available to meet with judicial officials to clarify the allegations.

Government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi dismissed the allegations as “badly played theater” and called for any evidence to be made public.

“It is obvious why these ridiculous performances are being played so that a president of the republic is not voted for and the country is led to early elections,” she said in a statement.

Mr. Haikalis said he was offered about €700,000 ($860,000) in cash, help in repaying an outstanding bank loan, as well as advertising contracts to say yes to New Democracy’s candidate. He estimated the total package to be worth €2 million to €3 million.

“Initially I thought it was a joke,” Mr. Haikalis told journalists during a news conference. “I was approached by a person that we cannot joke about because he plays an active role in the country’s political affairs.”

Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos said he and Mr. Haikalis informed an Athens prosecutor of the allegations on Dec. 6 and have handed over video and audio recordings showing the bribe attempt. Mr. Haikalis said he named the individual involved to the prosecutor.

In a statement, the prosecutor’s office confirmed Mr. Haikalis approached them with the complaint but said Mr. Haikalis didn’t identify the person involved.

In an interview later Friday with TV channel Mega, Mr. Haikalis said the “middleman” mentioned Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during their meeting. In an immediate statement issued by the prime minister’s office, Mr. Samaras responded by saying he would file a lawsuit against Mr. Haikalis for libel.

The current government, a two-party coalition of the conservative New Democracy and socialist Pasok parties, holds just 155 seats in Parliament. It has to rely on votes of renegade deputies in smaller parties and other independent lawmakers to reach the 180-vote threshold needed in the third and final round set for Dec. 29.

The Independent Greeks party was created in February 2012 during the depths of country’s debt crisis, after its leader was expelled from the New Democracy party for failing to toe the party line. It won seats in Parliament for the first time later that year. Its popularity has been waning over the past months. Almost half of its lawmakers have left the party and opinion polls indicate it could struggle to reach the 3% threshold needed to enter Parliament if general elections were held today.

Write to Nektaria Stamouli at nektaria.stamouli@wsj.com



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