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Greek election to determine future in Europe

December 30, 2014

The Greek prime minister has said that next month's parliamentary polls will determine whether the country will remain in the eurozone. The snap election follows lawmakers' failure to elect a new president.

Antonis Samaras Griechenland
Image: Getty Images/ AFP/ Louisa Gouliamaki

Speaking during a meeting with the current president, Greek Prime Minsiter Antonis Samaras said on Tuesday that the January 25 election would amount to a fork in the road in terms of the country's political future.

"This struggle will determine whether Greece stays in Europe," the conservative Samaras said as he asked President Karolos Papoulias to formally dissolve parliament and call the election.

The "struggle" that Samaras referred to promises to be a tough election campaign, as he seeks to retain his job as premier despite the far-left Syriza party having consistently topped opinion polls in recent months.

Syriza has said it wants to roll back some of the austerity measures implemented by Samaras and a previous government in return for an international bailout that has prevented Athens from slipping into default.

"This is the beginning of the end of a regime that plunged Greece into poverty, unemployment, misery and despair," the leader of the party, Alexis Tsipras said shortly after Monday's presidential vote failed. He also pledged to enter a "real negotiation" with Greece's creditors, the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Bailout payments suspended

The IMF responded to the news of the snap elections on Monday by suspending bailout payments.

"Discussions ... will resume once a new government is in place, in consultation with the European Commission and the European Central Bank," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said, adding that "Greece faces no immediate financing needs."

The European economy commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, warned that it was "essential" for whatever government takes charge following the polls to stay the course on austerity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, when asked by reporters on Monday, describing it as a "domestic" affair.

Previously, though, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the Greeks had "no alternative" to the reform process.

Under Greece's constitution, Prime Minister Samaras had no choice but to request snap elections, after his candidate to become Papoulias' successor, Stavros Dimas, failed in a third attempt to garner the required number of lawmakers' votes to be confirmed in office. The 85-year-old Papoulias' five-year term ends in March.

The president was expected to formally dissolve parliament and call the election later on Tuesday.

pfd/ksb (AFP, Reuters, AP)