Greek failure to elect a president opens door to the left

SHAFAQNA – Greece’s embattled government failed today to elect a president, triggering a snap general election that could usher into power the radical left-wing Syriza party and put at risk the country’s bailout.

Stavros Dimas, the sole candidate of the ruling New Democracy-PASOK coalition in the heated race, won 168 votes, leaving him a dozen short of the 180 he needed from Greece’s 300-member parliament to become president.

Although largely ceremonial, failure to elect a president leads Greece to snap elections: this will be the third trip to the ballot box since the economy imploded four years ago.

News of the failed vote sent the Athens stock market plunging by nearly 10 per cent, among its worst single-day falls. In early dealing ahead of the key ballot, stock markets in debt-laden Italy and Spain also fell, fanning fears about the future of Greece’s international bailout.

The prime minister, Antonis Samaras, was scheduled to hold an urgent cabinet council before meeting President Karolos Papoulias to request a snap election. Under the constitution, parliament will be dissolved within ten days and elections held within a month.

Government officials are citing January 25 as the earliest election date.

Leading in the polls, the Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras vows to end years of austerity and renegotiate a €240 billion bailout loan with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

“This is a historic day,” Mr Tsipras said after the vote. “The Samaras government which pillaged Greek society with brutal measures is history. So too are the austerity plans.

“The future for Greece begins today.”

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