Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras ’s candidate for the presidency failed to win enough support in the first round of parliamentary voting on Wednesday, a move that could force the country into snap elections. Lawmakers couldn’t gather the two-thirds needed to elect former European Commissioner Stavros Dimas as the next president, with 160 members of the chamber backing the candidate, short of the needed 200. A present—or neutral—vote was cast by 135 lawmakers, while five lawmakers were absent. Although few officials in Mr. Samaras’s New Democracy party said they expected Mr. Dimas to be elected on Wednesday, his support came in at the bottom end of expectations. Informal estimates by government officials and analysts had suggested the government would garner between 160 and 165 votes.
“The result was probably negative for the government. They reached the lowest target they have set,” said Ilias Nikolakopoulos, a political-science professor at Athens University.
The government—a coalition of the conservative New Democracy and socialist Pasok parties—holds just 155 seats in the 300-seat Parliament.