Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces a vote in parliament on Monday that will decide whether the country goes to snap elections that could bring the leftwing Syriza party to power and derail an international bailout. In the most hotly contested vote for president since Greece joined the euro more than a decade ago, the result in the final round of voting is likely to be decided by a small handful of deputies. If lawmakers fail to elect a successor to 85-year-old Karolos Papoulias, a snap election will be held within weeks. Syriza, leading in the opinion polls, vowed again to renegotiate the joint European Union-IMF bailout bailout Greece needs to pay its bills and roll over its debt.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ surprise offer to lawmakers to go to the polls late next year in exchange for a vote for his presidential nominee has injected fresh momentum into his fight against the anti-austerity left. However, as parliament prepares for a second round of voting on Tuesday to elect a successor to 85 year-old President Karolos Papoulias, the outcome still appears open with only a handful of independents pledging firm support to the government. If a new president is not elected by a third round on Dec. 29, elections will have to be held by early February, potentially handing power to Syriza, the main leftwing opposition party, which wants to renegotiate the international bailout agreement that Greece still needs to keep its battered finances afloat. Such an outcome could rock the euro zone, which is only just emerging from its debt crisis.
Greece has brought forward to this month the date of its next presidential election, which is conducted by the country’s parliament. The announcement came after eurozone ministers approved a Greek request for a two-month extension to its bailout programme, due to end later this month. The presidential vote on 17 December will be a vital test for embattled Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. His decision prompted the stock market in Athens to plummet 9.5% on Tuesday. Analysts said the markets had been spooked by the risk of snap elections, which will take place if the conservative-led government’s nomination is not approved by parliament.
A cabinet of professors and diplomats has been sworn in in Greece to steer the debt-ridden eurozone state into repeat elections on 17 June. Panagiotis Pikrammenos, the senior judge who has taken over as prime minister, said the cabinet’s sole task was to lead the country into the polls. The 300 MPs elected on 6 May are taking their seats for a single day. Voters punished the two mainstream parties which agreed the cuts required under international bailouts. A 130bn euro (£104bn; $165bn) bailout was agreed earlier this year, following a 2010 package of 110bn euros.
Greek political leaders meet on Wednesday to form a caretaker government that will lead the country into its second election in just over a month, with Greece’s euro membership at stake in a mounting crisis rocking world markets. Parties deeply divided over an unpopular EU-IMF rescue plan threw in the towel on Tuesday after nine days of failed attempts to put together a coalition, hitting heavyweight financial stocks as investors worried at the prospect that the euro zone weakling would remain in limbo for at least another month. Opinion polls show that voters enraged with five years of recession, record unemployment and steep wage cuts are likely to elect a parliament as fragmented as the one they chose on May 6. But the vote, probably in mid-June, may well tip the balance of power toward leftist parties opposed to the bailout conditions.
Greece headed into a month of political uncertainty after power-sharing talks collapsed Tuesday, triggering new elections that could determine whether the country retains its tenuous position in Europe’s currency. Nine tortured days of fruitless talks to build a coalition government fueled increasing doubt that Greece can make enough reforms to prevent the world’s largest currency union from fracturing. “We expect the euro to remain under pressure as a result of this, and pressure on the borrowing costs, the bond yields, of countries like Spain and Italy to persist,” said John Bowler, director of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Risk Service. No date has been set for the elections, but they will have to be held by mid-June – the month in which Greece must make more spending cuts to ensure it meets the terms of its international bailout. A caretaker government will be appointed until then.
With Greece hurtling toward new elections and a possible exit from the euro zone, President Karolos Papoulias prepared to make a last-ditch appeal on Monday for the country’s sharply divided political parties to form a unity government even as his hopes for success all but evaporated over the weekend. The leaders of Greece’s main political parties remained adamant in their positions on the country’s debt agreement with foreign lenders, making a unity coalition appear impossible and new elections all but inevitable. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left, refused on Sunday to take part in any government that would go through with the harsh austerity measures required in the debt deal, saying that Greek voters had resoundingly rejected austerity in elections on May 6. The parties that favor preserving the debt deal lack enough seats in Parliament to govern on their own, and Mr. Papoulias spent Sunday trying to persuade several smaller parties to join them.