26th Jan 2020

Greece in last attempt to elect president

  • The Greek parliament failed twice to elect the country's next president (Photo: Kirk Siang)

The Greek parliament on Monday (29 December) will have a last attempt at electing a new president or face snap general elections that could sweep the anti-bailout far-left into power.

The candidate of the centre-right, Stavros Dimas, needs 180 votes out of the 300 MPs in the parliament to succeed.

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In previous weeks, Dimas only managed to gather 168 votes, with the final round likely to be decided by a a handful of right-wing deputies.

Dimas is a former EU commissioner who is running on behalf of the centre-right coalition led by prime minister Antonis Samaras and who has the backing of the current head of the commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

If Dimas is not elected Monday noon, the parliament has to be dissolved and new general elections held by February. Markets and EU officials are spooked by the prospect of the far-left Syriza party coming into power.

Syriza is leading in opinion polls and has said it wants to erase part of Greece's crushing debt burden.

"In Europe, sentiment is changing. Everyone is getting used to the idea that Syriza will be the government and that new negotiations will begin," Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras wrote in his party newspaper on Sunday.

Samaras has sought to convince non-attached MPs to back Dimas, promising them a government reshuffle and early elections by end 2015.

He argues that early elections now would be a mistake, as the government is just negotiating with international lenders on how to exit a bailout programme.

"The Greek people don't want early elections. The Greek people understand where this adventure could lead," Samaras told Greek television.

Eurozone finance ministers extended the bailout programme by two months to give Samaras time to sort out the presidential elections and get back to the negotiating table.

Spyros Lykoudis, an independent who voted for Dimas in the second round, said he was not optimistic about the outcome on Monday.

"Unless there is a surprise, unless a party changes its stance, I don't expect parliament to elect a president [Monday] given the current circumstances," he told Reuters.

"Nothing can be ruled out, but parties are in any case preparing for election," Lykoudis added.

A poll on Saturday by the Alco institute showed Syriza still ahead with 28.3 percent compared to Samaras' New Democracy (25%), a slightly narrower lead than in previous polls.

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