Greece will hold an early general election next month, fueling fears that the anti-bailout Syriza party could rise to power and put the country on a collision course with international lenders, the Financial Times reported.
The parliament rejected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ nominee for president on Monday, automatically triggering an election which is to be held on Jan. 25.
The latest developments revived questions about Greece’s place in the eurozone, just two years after the country’s debt crisis nearly triggered a break-up of the currency union, the newspaper said.
The prospect of another period of political instability in Greece came amid weak growth in the eurozone, the rise of populist anti-EU parties and widespread discontent over austerity measures, it added.
Markets in Greece and elsewhere in the region were rattled by the possibility that Syriza, which has pledged to write off much of the country’s debt and renegotiate the terms of its bailout, could win the election.
Samaras’ nominee, former EU commissioner Stavros Dimas, fell short of the 180 votes needed to become president in Monday’s decisive third ballot.
In a televised statement, Samaras said: “It’s time for voters to do what parliament couldn’t — end uncertainty and restore stability so that we can continue with reforms and make a decisive exit from the bailout.”
The EU and the International Monetary Fund have extended the country’s four-year bailout, due to finish this month, by another two months.
Pierre Moscovici, the EU’s top economic official, has warned Greek voters that backing an anti-EU, anti-austerity party could hinder the country’s recovery.
“A strong commitment to Europe and broad support among the Greek voters and political leaders for the necessary growth-friendly reform process will be essential for Greece to thrive again within the euro area,” Moscovici was quoted as saying.
The latest opinion polls gave the leftist Syriza a lead of 3-4 percentage points over Samaras’ center-right New Democracy party, but pollsters say that would not be enough to predict the outcome of the election.
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