Greece heading to snap elections after Parliament fails to elect president

Greece faces snap elections early in the New Year after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed on Monday in his third and final attempt to persuade parliament to back his candidate for head of state.

Government candidate Stavros Dimas failed to gather the 180 votes needed as 168 MPs voted for him. It was exactly the same number as in the second ballot on December 23. Under the constitution, the legislature will now be dissolved and a date for elections set within the next 10 days.

The prospect of early parliamentary elections as soon as January 25 or February 1 has roiled financial markets in Greece. The benchmark Athens Stock Exchange slumped the most among 18 western-European markets ahead of the vote. The anti-austerity Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras is ahead of Samaras’s New Democracy movement in opinion polls.

Samaras called on lawmakers before today’s session to avert a dissolution of parliament, saying that snap elections posed a danger to the country. Heading a coalition of 155 lawmakers, he’d offered to form a broader administration and hold early parliamentary elections at the end of 2015 if lawmakers backed his nominee. His coalition’s term was not due to expire until June 2016.

The prime minister is due to chair a meeting of the cabinet later on Monday and is expected to issue a statement commenting on the failed presidential vote.

(Kathimerini, Bloomberg)