A champion tennis player in his youth and a former student at Amherst College in the U.S., Samaras abandoned New Democracy almost two decades ago when he founded a party to capitalize on a dispute with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over its name. The issue is sensitive for Greeks because of concerns it implies a claim on a northern region in Greece that’s also called Macedonia.
Midnight Votes He rejoined New Democracy about a decade later and took over as leader when it was ousted in 2009 by Pasok. Samaras spent the next two years trying to thwart then Prime MinisterGeorge Papandreou in a series of knife-edge midnight votes — as Papandreou’s own Pasok support crumbled — and Greece sought to meet the terms of a first bailout agreed in May 2010.
In the process, Samaras kicked out of New Democracy a stalwart named Dora Bakoyannis, a former foreign minister and ex-premier’s daughter whom he had defeated for the party leadership, after she voted in favor of the first rescue of 110 billion euros. Bakoyannis created her own party that failed in May to garner enough support to enter parliament and, as speculation mounted about a possible Syriza victory in the June election, she returned to New Democracy to bolster its chances.
Samaras, one of the signatories of the European Union’s 1992 Maastricht Treaty that paved the way for the euro because he was Greek foreign minister at the time, yesterday began talks on forming a ruling coalition by leaving the door open to parties committed to keeping Greece in the single currency.