Greece's public broadcaster announced on Wednesday that President Karolos Papoulias had issued a decree dissolving parliament and calling the election. This was merely a formal step required under Greece's constitution, after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (pictured above) had announced the election date on Monday.
The move was made necessary after the prime minister failed to get enough parliamentarians to support his candidate for president, former European Commissioner Stavros Dimas, to confirm him as the new head of state.
The term in office of the 85-year-old Papoulis expires in March and the first task of the new parliament is expected to be to try to elect a successor.
Fresh uncertainty over austerity measures
The news that Greece would be going to the polls in snap elections unsettled the financial markets, particuarly in Athens, amid worries that the next government could seek to tamper with the terms of its international bailout, which has prevented it from going into default.
Alexis Tsipras, leader of the far-left Syriza party, which is currently leading in opinion polls, has said that if he gets into government, he will seek to unravel many of the austerity measures that the Samaras' and the previous administration have implemented in return for two bailouts, financed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.
'Potential for blackmail' no longer exists
On Wednesday, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats said other members of the eurozone that use the euro common currency would no longer be obliged to bail out Greece if it fails to adhere to the current terms of the deal.
"If Alexis Tsipras of the Greek left party Syriza thinks he can cut back the reform efforts and austerity measures, then the troika (IMF, EU and European Central Bank) will have to cut back the credits for Greece," Michael Fuchs told the Rheinische Post newspaper.
"The times where we had to rescue Greece are over. There is no potential for political blackmail anymore. Greece is no longer of systemic importance for the euro," said Fuchs, who is the CDU's deputy floor leader in the Bundestag parliament.
On Monday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had also warned that the terms of the bailout were binding and that any new Greek government would be required to meet the country's obligations as set out in the agreement.
pfd/tj (AFP, Reuters)