Antonis Samaras born 23 May 1951 is a Greek economist and politician who has been the Prime Minister of Greece since 20 June 2012. He has been leader of New Democracy, Greece's major conservative party, since 2009. Previously, Samaras served as Minister of Finance in 1989, then as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1989 to 1990 and again from 1990 to 1992. Later, he was Minister of Culture in 2009.
Samaras was known for a 1993 controversy in which he effectively caused the New Democracy government, of which he was a member, to fall from power. In spite of this he rejoined the party in 2004 and was elected to its leadership in a closely fought intra-party election in late 2009. He is the 7th leader of the party since it was founded in 1974.
Samaras has been elected as a Member of the Hellenic Parliament, initially for Messenia, from 1977 onward. In 1989 he became the Finance Minister, later advancing to become the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the New Democracy government of PM Konstantinos Mitsotakis (1990–93), from which post he caused the "Macedonian Question" to ignite. It remains an awkward diplomatic situation, involving both a national name and a heritage dispute.
After being removed from his post in 1992 over this issue, Samaras founded his own party, "Political Spring" , located politically to the right of New Democracy. The defection of one Member of Parliament from New Democracy to Samaras' party caused the government's fall from power in 1993.
Political Spring gained 4.9 per cent of the vote in the 1993 general election, earning ten seats in the Greek Parliament. They gained 8.7 per cent in the elections in the 1994 European Parliament elections, earning two seats. Its decline started in the 1996 general election, when it gained 2.94 per cent, just below the 3 per cent threshold necessary to enter parliament. They participated in the 1999 European Parliament elections, but only got 2.3%, which was not enough to elect MEPs.
Political Spring did not participate in the 2000 general election, and Samaras publicly supported the New Democracy party. Before the 2004 general election, Samaras dissolved his party, rejoined New Democracy and he was elected a MEP in the 2004 European elections.
In the 2007 Greek legislative election he was elected to the Greek Parliament for Messenia, and consequently resigned from the European Parliament. In January 2009 he was appointed Minister for Culture following a government reshuffle. In this capacity he inaugurated the new Acropolis Museum in July 2009. He was reelected in Messenia in 2009.
Following the May 2012 legislative election where the New Democracy party became the largest party in the Hellenic Parliament, Samaras was asked by Greek President Karolos Papoulias to try to form a government.However, after a day of hard negotiations with the other parties in Parliament, Samaras officially announced he was giving up the mandate to form a government. The task passed to Alexis Tsipras, leader of the SYRIZA (the second largest party) who was also unable to form a government. After PASOK also failed to negotiate a successful agreement to form a government, emergency talks with the President ended with a new election being called while the outgoing chairman of the Council of State Panagiotis Pikrammenos was appointed as Prime Minister in a caretaker government made up by independent technocrats.
Voters once again took to the polls in the widely-watched June 2012 election. New Democracy came out on top in a stronger position with 129 seats, compared to 108 in the May election. The new government would have a majority of 28 (which has since been reduced to 18), On 20 June 2012, Samaras successfully formed a coalition with PASOK (now led by former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos) and DIMAR.The new government would have a majority of 28 (which has since been reduced to 18), with SYRIZA, Independent Greeks (ANEL), Golden Dawn (XA) and the Communist Party (KKE) comprising the opposition. PASOK and DIMAR chose to take a limited role in Samaras' Cabinet, being represented by party officials and independent technocrats instead of MPs.