In the second of three presidential votes, the Greek parliament failed to elect the government’s center-right choice for president, Stavros Dimas (pictured above), a former foreign minister and European Commission member, in voting on Tuesday.
Though it was the second time that Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras, both failures were expected, given that Dimas needed 200 votes in the 300-member Hellenic Parliament (Βουλή των Ελλήνων) in order to win the presidency outright in either of the first two rounds. That threshold drops to just 180 votes in the third and final round that will take place next Monday, December 29. Samaras is waging an all-out campaign over the weekend to convince enough legislators to support Dimas and, by extension, his government.
Dimas won just 160 votes in the first round, but Samaras, who governs a coalition that includes his own center-right New Democracy (Νέα Δημοκρατία) and its traditional center-left rival, PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement – Πανελλήνιο Σοσιαλιστικό Κίνημα), increased that total to 168 in the second vote after winning over a handful of independents.
If the Hellenic Parliament fails to elect a new president, Greece will hold snap elections next spring and New Democracy might lose, as polls currently suggest, to the hard-left SYRIZA (the Coalition of the Radical Left — Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς). That could put Greece’s financial future in doubt as SYRIZA’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, pledges to reverse the austerity measures of the past six years and negotiate a bond haircut to lower the country’s debt burden, from the ‘troika’ of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that provided Greece two bailouts worth €110 billion and €130 billion, starting in June 2010.
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Samaras starts with the existing ND-PASOK governing coalition, which controls 155 votes, there’s a theoretical bank of 46 additional votes, including 24 independents, 12 legislators from Panos Kammenos’s Independent Greeks (ANEL, Ανεξάρτητοι Έλληνες), an anti-austerity spinoff from New Democracy and 10 additional legislators from the Democratic Left (DIMAR, Δημοκρατική Αριστερά), a new social democratic party and SYRIZA spinoff that joined Samaras’s coalition between the June 2012 elections and June 2013 (when it eventually withdrew to the opposition in the face of further austerity measures). Though DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis has indicated he will support SYRIZA’s call for early elections and will support a SYRIZA-led government, not all of the party’s members agree. Negotiations with the Independent Greeks have been equally tenuous, and one of its members accused the government of attempting to bribe him in exchange for his support in the presidential vote.
Snap elections would coincide with the end of Greece’s bailout program in February 2015. The the next Greek government already faces a €22 billion budget shortfall between 2015 and 2016. Among the solutions currently under discussion is a short-term credit line from the troika or the IMF, though the troika is already demanding additional wage cuts and other fiscal contraction as part of the deal. Another potential solution might be to extend the repayment period by 20 years, equivalent to writing off around €50 billion in debt. Continue reading