SHAFAQNA – Greek MPs failed to elect a new president in a second round of voting, prolonging a constitutional impasse that could bring down the conservative-led government and trigger a renewed eurozone crisis by the end of the month.
Antonis Samaras, the prime minister, won the support of 168 MPs for his nominee, Stavros Dimas, but fell short of the 200 majority he needs to secure his election and hold his centre-right government together.
The victory threshold falls to 180 in the final round of voting on Monday. If the government fails, snap elections will be called, potentially ushering Europe’s first anti-austerity party.
“I am hopeful that the worst can be avoided in that third vote,” Mr Samaras said. “Next time around, each and every MP will be responsible for the consequences that could follow, endangering the stability and future of the country.”
A flurry of polls suggests that the radical leftist Syriza party, which wants to tear up Greece’s loan obligations, end austerity and boost public spending in defiance of fiscal discipline set down by the country’s international lenders, would come first in general elections.
With the ruling coalition controlling only 155 of parliament’s 300 seats, the presidential ballot has unleashed a frenzy of backroom deals with the government trying to poach support from two smaller parties and independents.
Accusations also surfaced that the government was attempting bribes, allegedly offering as much as €3 million (£2.4 million) to an MP to support Mr Dimas. An Athens prosecutor has dismissed the allegations.
Despite six years of recession, Greece has shown slim signs of growth, resuming some borrowing on financial markets. Its economy still needs the support of its European and international creditors to cover its expenses.
Alexis Tsipras, the firebrand leader of Syriza, has exploited popular resentment of austerity, insisting on an early trip to the ballot box that could end austerity. “A start will come with the new year and the new government we will form,” he said. “We will succeed.”