UPDATE 1-Greek opposition says will try to force early election in 2015

Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:07am EST

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ATHENS Feb 16 (Reuters) - Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras said on Sunday he will not support any candidate for president in spring 2015 in the hope of forcing an early parliamentary election.

President Karolos Papoulias' term ends in March 2015 and, under Greece's constitution, his successor will need the support of 180 deputies in Greece's 300-seat parliament, equivalent to a 3/5ths majority.

But the government has only 153 seats, meaning it would have to rely on the support of Tsipras's Syriza's 71 deputies or of smaller parties also opposed to Greece's EU/IMF bailout.

"We will not support any candidate," Tsipras said in an interview in the weekend edition of German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"This means that the necessary parliamentary majority to elect a president will not be there ... There will have to be new elections," a transcript sent by his office on Sunday stated.

Tsipras is strongly opposed to the bailout and wants Greece's international lenders to write off a large chunk of its debt.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's conservative-socialist coalition government is anxious to hold parliamentary elections on schedule in 2016, as any political instability would hurt the country's battered economy.

But if a candidate for president failed to muster 180 votes, early parliamentary elections would be called, after which the new legislature could vote one in with a simple majority of 151.

Tsipras's statement increased the chances of that scenario taking effect.

Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the moderate Democratic Left, which left the government last year, said on Saturday he did not believe the current parliament will be able to elect a President.

"I don't see how the necessary number of votes can be produced to elect a President and avoid elections", Kouvelis said in an interview with newspaper Ta Nea.

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