The Greek parliament has failed to elect a successor to outgoing president Karolos Papoulias on its third attempt, leading to snap elections being called for 25 January 2015. The government’s preferred candidate, former European Commissioner for the Environment, Stavros Dimas, fell 12 votes short of the 180-vote threshold required for his election to pass. Although the role of president is largely ceremonial, the vote points to huge divisions within the country in relation to austerity measures imposed by the European Union.
The dissolution of parliament will come as a huge boost to Alex Tsipras’s SYRIZA, the populist, anti-austerity party, who claimed “In a few days austerity bailouts will be a thing of the past” in a news conference this morning. His party was joined by an unlikely alliance of members within the Hellenic Parliament from the far-right Golden Dawn, the Communist party of Greece and Democratic Left party, in voting against Dimas, who was supported by the ruling New Democracy-PASOK coalition.
There has been stern reactions from across EU member states – many of whom consider Greece analogous to the political situation in Spain, where the newly-formed, left-wing insurgents Podemos hope to make great gains at the general elections to be held in December 2015 – with Tsipras and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias publicly tweeting one another messages of support.
2015 será el año del cambio en España y en Europa. Empezaremos en Grecia. Vamos Alexis!! Vamos @syriza_gr !!
— Pablo Iglesias (@Pablo_Iglesias_) December 29, 2014
The threat of new negotiations over debt and spending has created instability within Eurozone markets, with leaders of EU member states urging the continuation of reforms. “Democracy cannot be blackmailed,” said Tsipras in response. The New Statesman will follow the Greek and Spain elections in the magazine and online throughout the coming year.