Greece heads for early general election

Athens, Dec 29 (IANS) Greek lawmakers failed to elect the next president of the Hellenic republic in a third and final ballot Monday, triggering a snap national election in early 2015, as most political parties and analysts in Athens expected.

Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told the media shortly after the vote that Tuesday he will visit outgoing President Karolos Papoulias to formally request the issuance of a presidential decree to dissolve the assembly and call early general polls within a month, according to the Constitution.
“We did whatever we could so that the current parliament would elect the next Head of State and early elections — which are not in the country’s interest and the vast majority of Greek citizens did not want them — are avoided,” Xinhua quoted Samaras as saying.
The Greek leader added that he would rather see the polls set for the earliest possible Jan 25 so that the political uncertainty of recent weeks receded. The government’s term was to expire in June 2016.
Samaras underlined that opposition parties hold the responsibility for any negative repercussions of the political uncertainty, expressing certainty that his New Democracy party will win again, as had happened in the 2012 elections in a similar scenario, to “lead the country to the exit of the financial crisis”.
All recent opinion surveys give a small lead to main opposition radical left SYRIZA party which advocates the renegotiation of Greek commitments to austerity and reform under bailout deals signed with international lenders since 2010 in order to deal with an acute debt crisis.
“Today, Samaras’s government belongs to the past,” SYRIZA’s chief Alexis Tsipras commented exiting the parliament after Monday’s vote.
Former EU commissioner for environment Stavros Dimas, the candidate supported by the two-party coalition government, garnered 168 votes in the 300-member strong assembly, falling short of the 180 threshold required in the final ballot.
A total of 132 legislators voted “present” as there is no option of a “no” in the procedure for the election of the head of state of the Hellenic republic.
Dimas had won 160 votes in the first round Dec 17 and 168 votes in the second ballot Dec 23 during which he had to draw at least 200 votes according to the constitution.
The government, which controls 155 seats in the chamber, won over some independent deputies over the past few weeks, but not enough to avert the snap national election, despite Samaras’s appeals to avoid “risky adventures” for the country.
Scenarios of a possible Greek exit from the euro in case of prolonged political uncertainty or a collision course with international creditors in case a radical left-led government comes to power have resurfaced in international media in recent weeks.
The procedure of the election of the next president of the republic, according to the constitution, continues once the new parliament convenes after the election.