Middle East

Greek lawmaker alleges bribe offer to vote

Greece Parliament, left, stands above the Christmas-lit central Syntagma Square in Athens, on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS: A lawmaker from one of the small Greek parties whose support the government needs to avert a snap election said Friday he had been offered a bribe to cast his ballot for the ruling coalition's presidential candidate.

The accusation by Pavlos Haikalis, an actor and member of the small Independent Greeks party, came two days after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' government failed to win enough parliamentary support for its candidate.

Two more votes are expected, on Dec. 23 and Dec. 29. If the candidate, Stavros Dimas, still lacks the necessary votes in the final round, Greece must hold a parliamentary election which opinion polls say the radical leftist Syriza party would win.

Haikalis, 55, a star of popular television comedies, told MEGA TV he had been offered a package worth 2-3 million euros, including 700,000 euros ($859,880) in cash, a promise to pay off his mortgage and advertising contracts, to back Dimas.

He said the offer had not been made by anyone in the government but by an individual "in the financial sector". "There was a preliminary discussion, which started as a joke and then became very serious," he said.

Government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi dismissed Haikalis' comments as a "despicable show" and urged him to make public the evidence he said had been passed on to prosecutors.

"It is obvious why this is being staged -- so that a new president is not elected and the country is led to early elections," Voultepsi said in a statement.

The prosecutor's office said Haikalis had informed it of the incident on Saturday. It was not clear whether Haikalis had named the individual alleged to have made the offer.

Syriza, which wants to renegotiate the international bailout deal that Greece needs to keep its finances afloat, said the allegations had to be fully investigated and explained.

"This looks like a serious accusation but I will not say more until I have seen the evidence," Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras told reporters.

The centre-left PASOK party, part of the ruling coalition with Samaras' center-right New Democracy party, called for a quick investigation to ensure political life was not "poisoned".

Prosecutors have been investigating similar accusations of political bribery in recent weeks but have made no formal charges against anyone.

The government needs as many as 20 votes from independents and small parties to get its presidential candidate approved. ($1 = 0.8141 euros)

 

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