ATHENS, Greece – Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange suffered more heavy losses Thursday, as the governing coalition appeared short of the support needed to stop the government collapsing in a parliamentary vote this month.
Retreating for a third day, shares closed down nearly 7.5 per cent, taking this week’s cumulative losses to around 20 per cent. Meanwhile the yield on Greece’s 10-year-bond jumped to nearly 9 per cent, way above levels thought as sustainable.
Even though Greece has recently emerged from its brutal six-year recession and has made big strides to get its public finances into shape, the country has been thrown back into uncertainty following the decision earlier this week by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to call an early vote in parliament to elect a new president.
To get his preferred candidate — Stavros Dimas, a former commissioner at the European Union — elected, Samaras will require support from opposition lawmakers in the 300-member parliament.
Under a complicated electoral system that seeks to generate a cross-party consensus, any new president has to have the support of at least 180 lawmakers in a third round of voting. Voting is due to start on Dec. 17 and can last up to 3 rounds that end on Dec. 29. In the first two rounds, a president has to get 200 votes.
The government has 155 seats in the 300-member parliament.
“The way things look today, at the moment, we do not have the numbers. I don’t know what will happen in the end, and how each lawmaker will consider his national duty,” Gerasimos Giakoumatos, a deputy development minister, told Real FM radio.
All five opposition parties have vowed to vote against Dimas, leaving the conservatives to rely on potential dissenters and independent lawmakers.
Opinion polls suggest the anti-bailout Syriza would win a snap general election but would most likely need to form a coalition to govern.
In Parliament, Samaras accused Syriza of undermining the progress made during years of punishing austerity, reviving concerns in the markets that Greece’s future in euro may be uncertain.
“We spat blood to stop people abroad using the word ‘Grexit’ but Syriza has put that word back on their lips,” Samaras said.
Syriza argues Greece’s national debt is not sustainable and is demanding that a large slice of bailout loans — in total Greece got 240 billion euros ($300 billion) worth of support —be cancelled.
On Wednesday, a senior Syriza official told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper that his party would “take no unilateral decisions in Europe” and that the terms of Greece’s bailout would be changed through negotiation.
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