Tue, Dec 30, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Greece faces snap poll after final vote for presidency fails

SINGULAR FAILURE:The final round of voting by lawmakers failed to yield a new president, despite there being only one person vying for the post

Reuters, ATHENS

Greek lawmakers failed to elect a new president in a final round of voting yesterday, leaving the country facing an early election that could derail the international bailout program it needs to keep paying its bills.

The sole candidate, former EU commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas, matched the result achieved in the second round of voting before Christmas, but fell short of the 180 votes needed to become president.

Under Greek law, a parliamentary election must now be called, leaving financial markets and Athens’ EU partners facing weeks of uncertainty that could undermine fragile signs of economic recovery and derail its public finances. A general election is now expected to be held by early February.

The radical left-wing SYRIZA party, which wants to tear up Greece’s bailout agreement with the EU and IMF, and wipe off a big part of its debt, has held a steady lead in opinion polls for months, although its advantage narrowed in recent weeks.

Divisions among potential post-election coalition partners for both SYRIZA and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ conservative New Democracy party have also complicated the outlook, increasing the risk that any new government will be short-lived.

Underlining the potential volatility facing markets, the Athens Stock Exchange accelerated losses to fall 10.7 percent after the vote, while Greek bond yields jumped above 9 percent.

Samaras urged lawmakers at the weekend to elect Dimas to and allow the final round of bailout negotiations to be completed.

However, having offered a deal to bring forward elections scheduled for mid-2016 to the end of next year, he ruled out new concessions and said he was confident of winning any election.

Samaras, who had been pushing for an early end to the deeply unpopular bailout program, brought forward the presidential vote earlier this month in a bid to end gathering political uncertainty hanging over his ruling coalition.

A negotiating team from the “troika” of creditors from the EU, IMF and European Central Bank had been due to resume talks in Athens next month to wind up the 240 billion euro (US$290 billion) bailout and agree an interim, post-bailout program.

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