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Samaras faces challengers at Parliamentary group meeting

Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras faced off against critics and challengers within the party on Thursday, during a stormy session of ND's Parliamentary group, amid calls for his resignation and an emergency congress to "refound" the party.

"If anyone thinks that it is good for the party or for the country to raise an issue of [leadership] let them say so now, take the responsibility and initiate the statutory processes. I am not 'married' to my post but neither will I give up the fight at such a difficult time," he said.

Former contender for the leadership Dora Bakoyannis, who lost to Samaras in the election for the party's leadership in 2010, replied with a call for his resignation:

"Whether we like it or not, Greece has turned over onto a new page and we are obliged to leave behind the practices and ways of thinking that brought us here, to form a modern, clearcut political and ideological hallmark. It is no accident that all the leaders of the party resigned after defeats. They were neither bad prime ministers nor bad leaders. But they submitted their resignations because they knew a simple truth: that the effort to vindicate their own work undermined the prospects of the following day," she said.

Bakoyannis also called for an emergency congress to decide the party's future, and discuss all issues from the party's funtioning and internal democracy, which she particularly emphasised, to organisation, strategy and individuals.

In his address, Samaras had emphasised that ND would now be called on to play "unprecedented roles," which demanded that it remain united and put an end to any lingering internal problems. He had also ruled out the possibility of an emergency party congress, saying that he will convene a broader National Conference instead.

"I considered an emergency congress. This, however, would be presented and converted into a symptom of maximal introversion of our party and the least statement by any party member would be exploited to show the party to be divided in crucial times. Instead, I will announce a National Conference so that there can be a very broad dialogue on the basis of updating our ideological identity," he said.

He also announced proposed changes in the party's functioning, to be established at the next regular congress, including an informal 15-member advisory body for the party president and a reorganisation of the party secretariat with the involvement of MPs.

The majority of Samaras' address, however, was devoted to defending his track record while in government and attacking the leading party in Greece's ruling coalition, SYRIZA. Among others, he emphasised that ND had only lost 1.83 pct of its share of the vote relative to the previous elections and remained a leadership contender, despite the harsh measures it had been forced to take.

Attacking ND members who had served as ministers and were now levelling criticism, he asserted that the country would have been rid of memorandums and "on the high road to growth" if the elections had not been held early. He pledged to support the government's demands for lowering primary surplus targets and for debt "assistance" in negotiations with Greece's partners but opposed the rolling back of privatisations and reforms.

He accused the government of sending mixed messages, with some members leading the country to head-on collision with its creditors and others attempting "the greatest somersault in history" - defending the decision taken at the European People's Party (EPP) in this context and dismissing accusations of "supposed conspiracies between our EU partners and ND".

Samaras further asserted that the present government's tactics had a high cost for Greece's economy, creating uncertainty, a flight of deposits and lowering revenues. "We had been on the verge of bringing the country out of the memorandums and they stopped this," he said. He defended his election campaign tactics, stressing that it had not been a "fear campaign" but a simple warning of real dangers.

After Samaras spoke, former prime minister Costas Karamanlis and former Parliament president Vangelis Meimarakis both departed.