ATHENS – Greek lawmakers are voting Dec. 29 for a new President of the Republic. But they could end up campaigning for re-election if the governing coalition’s candidate fails to get a constitutionally required three-fifths majority.
In two previous ballots, Stavros Dimas, 73, a conservative former minister and former European Commissioner, won 160 and 168 votes, respectively. He must now get 180 votes in the 300-member Parliament. If not, early elections will take place in late January or early February.
The new Parliament can elect a president by a simple majority of those voting.
With polls showing left-wing opposition SYRIZA ahead, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said an election could be “disastrous” while heavily indebted Greece is negotiating with its creditors. SYRIZA opposes the terms of the bailout deals which kept Greece from defaulting.
Despite last-minute pleas from Samaras that failure to elect Dimas – his New Democracy party’s Vice-President, it appeared the government would fall short of the target just as talks are stalled with international lenders over more reforms and how to close a hole in the 2015 budget of as much as three billion euros.
The coalition of New Democracy and its partner the fast-fading PASOK Socialists have only 155 votes between them and Samaras needed to convince 12 more from the ranks of Independents and anti-austerity rivals to go along with Dimas.
Nine of the 25 independent lawmakers have insisted they will not support Dimas, meaning that the government needs to gain votes from previous coalition partner the Democratic Left (DIMAR), which has nine MPs, and the Independent Greeks (ANEL,) which has 12 lawmakers and has been antagonistic toward Samaras and sided with SYRIZA in the votes so far. So far, both DIMAR and ANEL have said they will oppose the government.
If Dimas is not elected in the roll call vote, Parliament has to be dissolved within 10 days and snap elections called within the following 30 days. The most likely date for the early general elections would be January 25 or February 1.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)
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