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Tags: Greece | economy | parliament

Anxiety Grips Greece After Presidential Vote Falters

Thursday, 18 December 2014 10:46 AM EST

Political anxiety gripped Greece on Thursday with early elections a step closer after lawmakers failed to elect a new president in the first of three votes in parliament.

Greek stocks see-sawed as the government set out to persuade at least 20 more deputies over the next 10 days to vote for their candidate, with other parties publicly refusing to cooperate.

"Without a last-minute change [in the political scene] it will be difficult to avert early elections," argued political analyst Thomas Gerakis.

Only 160 deputies on Wednesday supported the government candidate, former EU commissioner Stavros Dimas, far short of the 200 required.

The focus now shifts to December 23 when the parliament will vote in a second round, once again requiring 200 votes for Dimas to win.

Should a third and final round be required on December 29, Dimas would need just 180 votes. However, a third failure would trigger the dissolution of parliament and early elections.

Greece's stock market alternated between moderate gains and losses that topped 3.0 percent in early afternoon trading, before balancing out shortly before closing.

Last week it lost around a fifth of its value when the presidential election was announced.

The clock is ticking on the government's attempt to avoid a political crisis that could in turn derail painful economic reforms aimed at putting one of the European Union's most troubled economies back on track.

According to reports, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has rejected calls to hold elections in late 2015 and has also dismissed calls from several lawmakers for a national unity government.

Opposition parties have likewise ruled out a national unity government.

"Elections are the only way. We will not give Samaras the kiss of life," said Panos Kammenos, leader of the small nationalist Independent Greeks party.

The government had hoped to win over half a dozen opposition deputies on Wednesday, and a few more next week, before the deciding vote on December 29.

But a number of deputies it had counted on voted the opposite way, or did not attend the session.

Greece recently secured a two-month extension from its EU-IMF creditors to conclude an ongoing fiscal audit that will determine the release of some 7.0 billion euros ($8.7 billion) in loans.

This extension expires in February.



International markets are watching nervously, with Greek bond yields rising and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker recently warning the nation against delivering the "wrong" election result.

The center-left Ta Nea daily said the situation resembles a "difficult crossword puzzle" for the government, which will need to do more to win support from independent deputies with only five of the 24 backing Dimas in the first round.

"The race is on to find 20 lawmakers in 11 days," wrote the pro-government daily Eleftheros Typos.

After Wednesday's vote, bookmakers in Greece lowered the odds on parliament failing to elect a president in all three votes to evens.

The government brought forward the election from February, when it will be locked in delicate negotiations with its creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The ruling coalition of conservatives and socialists was hoping to settle the political landscape ahead of those talks, but the gamble may backfire.

With 155 deputies, the government only has a slim majority in parliament and is facing a growing challenge from the radical leftist party Syriza, which wants to end a four-year austerity drive and re-negotiate Greece's EU bailout.

"I do not doubt that some reserves exist, but they are too small to achieve the required result" and elect a president, Syriza spokesman Panos Skourletis told Skai TV.

Syriza holds a steady lead in opinion polls.

However, more than 50 percent of Greeks also oppose early elections, which would be the second in two years.

© AFP 2023

Political anxiety gripped Greece on Thursday with early elections a step closer after lawmakers failed to elect a new president in the first of three votes in parliament.
Greece, economy, parliament
Thursday, 18 December 2014 10:46 AM
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