ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's government named a respected former EU commissioner, Stavros Dimas, on Tuesday as its candidate for president in a crucial vote in parliament this month that could trigger an early general election.
In a surprise move, the government on Monday moved forward the start of the presidential vote by two months to next week, risking early elections if it fails to secure a super-majority in parliament to back Dimas's candidature.
The conservative government is negotiating to bring about an early end to the 240 billion euro EU/IMF bailout that rescued Greece at the height of its debt crisis. The program is deeply unpopular because of the strict austerity conditions attached.
"When the current parliament elects a president at the end of the month the clouds will be gone and the country will be ready to officially enter the post-bailout era," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a televised address.
Dimas, a 73-year-old lawyer, is a prominent politician from Samaras's New Democracy party, where he has been vice president since 2010. He served as EU environment commissioner from 2004 to 2009 and has held various ministerial positions. He was foreign minister under a technocrat government at the peak of Greece's debt crisis in 2011-2012.
Samaras called him "a man who Greek people value but also someone who is internationally respected."
The government will need the support of 180 lawmakers - 25 more than it currently has in its coalition - to elect Dimas as head of state. Under Greek law, parliament must be dissolved and new elections called if it fails to elect a president.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)