Greece: Samaras looks for independents' support following inconclusive first presidential vote
December 18, 2014
The Greek parliament held the first round of the snap presidential elections on 17 December. The government’s candidate, former European commissioner Stavros Dimas, was backed by 160 votes (155 from the official coalition formed by the New Democrats and PASOK, and five additional independents), but fell short of the required 200-vote majority. A second vote will take place on 23 December. If the result is inconclusive, there will be a third and final round on 29 December in which the winning candidate will need a majority of just 180 seats.
The decision to move the presidential vote forward—it was originally planned for February 2015—was taken by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on 8 December, just a few hours after the Troika ministers decided to grant Greece a two-month extension to the European Union portion of the bailout program, which had been scheduled to end on 31 December. If a presidential candidate is not elected, this will trigger new parliamentary elections at the beginning of 2015. The most recent polls show that the leftist opposition party SYRIZA is in the lead, although it is expected to fall short of a majority. According to analysts, a victory for anti-austerity SYRYZA would derail the adoption of the reforms international lenders have requested, which are crucial for Greece to continue receiving much-needed financial aid.
In an attempt to win over independent lawmakers, Antonis Samaras offered to bring pro-European independents into the government, during an unscheduled televised meeting on Sunday 21 December. He promised to hold new parliamentary elections in late 2015 if lawmakers back government candidate Dimas. This would allow the Greek government to complete the bailout negotiations at the beginning of the year.
Author: Cecilia Simkievich, Economist