MPs in the Greek parliament have held the first of three possible rounds of voting in a close contest to choose the country’s next president.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his conservative-led coalition have nominated former European Commissioner Stavros Dimas for the post.
But they need the backing of independents and smaller parties to avoid new elections.
Samaras said after the first round: “I am optimistic that we will manage to elect a president. The conditions are difficult for the country and I am sure the deputies understand that Greece should not get into trouble.”
Opposition leader Alexis Tsipras said: “The alarmism of recent days has fallen into the void. The strategy of fear has collapsed. Tomorrow is a new day. A more optimistic day because democracy cannot be blackmailed.”
If the candidacy is not accepted by the end of the three rounds, early elections might be on the cards.
Euronews’ correspondent in Athens, Stamatis Giannisis, said: “The 160 votes the ruling coalition’s candidate managed in the first round are still 20 fewer than needed to avoid a general election. The government is optimistic that before a third round, several independent and smaller opposition party MPs will change their minds.”