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Europe News
Greek Bribery Claims Dismissed Ahead of Key Vote
From the Wall Street Journal of Mon, 22 Dec 2014 19:06:59 EST
The Greek government candidate for president Stavros Dimas. A second round of vote will be held by the parliament on Tuesday to elect a head of state.
The Greek government candidate for president Stavros Dimas. A second round of vote will be held by the parliament on Tuesday to elect a head of state. Associated Press

ATHENS—A Greek prosecutor on Monday dismissed allegations brought by a lawmaker from a small, right-wing party claiming he had been offered a bribe to back the government’s candidate in a parliamentary vote for president.

According to a court official, the prosecutor said that the allegations were unfounded and there was no evidence to support the lawmaker’s claim.

The news comes just one day before parliament will hold the second of three rounds of votes to elect a new head of state. The government is struggling to get a supermajority of lawmakers to support its candidate, former European Commissioner Stavros Dimas, and could potentially face elections as early as next month if a president isn’t elected.

Over the past few weeks, there have been several allegations by opposition lawmakers that bribes were being offered in exchange for votes, but none has been substantiated.

On Friday, Pavlos Haikalis of the Independent Greeks party said at a news conference he been offered about €700,000 ($860,000) in cash and help in repaying an outstanding bank loan, as well as advertising contracts to vote for the government’s candidate. He estimated the total package to be worth €2 million to €3 million.

However, there were doubts raised over the allegations and Mr. Haikalis was questioned by the parliament’s ethics committee earlier Monday where he appeared to make conflicting statements, panel members said.

Under the constitution, the president is elected by the parliament and undergoes three separate ballots. A first vote took place last week, a second is due Tuesday, and the third tentatively scheduled for Dec. 29. If the process fails, parliament will be dissolved and fresh elections will be called within a month.

In the first two rounds, the president must be elected by a two-thirds majority of the 300 lawmakers in parliament, but that threshold falls to 180 votes in the final round.

The current coalition government, which was elected to a four-year term in June 2012, controls just 155 seats in parliament. It will have to rely on support from about two dozen independent lawmakers, as well as officials from smaller parties, such as Independent Greeks or leftist Democratic Left.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras offered a series of concessions to lawmakers, including bringing forward national elections to the end of 2015, before the term of the current government expires, in a bid to shore up support for Mr. Dimas.

Although Tuesday’s ballot is likely to fall well short of the 200 votes lawmakers needed, it will be closely scrutinized for signs of a consensus ahead of the third vote on Monday.

—Nektaria Stamouli contributed to this article.

Write to Alkman Granitsas at alkman.granitsas@wsj.com



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