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Greek Central Bank Chief Warns of 'Irreparable' Damage From Political Crisis

  • Reuters

FILE - Greece's Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras arrives for a meeting of EU finance ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, May 6, 2014.

FILE - Greece's Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras arrives for a meeting of EU finance ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, May 6, 2014.

Greece's economy faces the risk of "irreparable" damage as the political crisis of recent days takes on increasingly serious proportions, the country's central bank chief said in prepared speech remarks on Monday.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has brought forward a presidential election by two months to end political uncertainty but faces an early parliamentary election, with no outright winner, if his candidate loses. Polls show the anti-bailout, leftist Syriza party would win a snap vote.

"The crisis in recent days is now taking serious dimensions, liquidity in the market is decreasing at a fast pace ... and the risk of irreparable damage for the Greek economy is now great," said Yannis Stournaras, a former finance minister who now heads the Greek central bank.

Current Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis also warned in comments published on Monday that the country faces financial trouble after February if it fails to elect a president, prompting the opposition Syriza party to accuse the government of blackmail to win support.

Samaras and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras have been trading barbs ahead of the presidential vote starting on Wednesday as they vie for support from parliamentarians who will choose the new head of state.

Greece would face funding problems if a snap election fails to produce a government that can wrap up a pending bailout review due to unlock 7 billion euros in aid, Hardouvelis told the financial daily Naftemporiki.

"If there is no government to conclude negotiations, there will be an important funding gap," he said. "This deficit is manageable until February, and not easily afterwards, since from March onwards our needs will increase."

He also warned Greece would post lower growth next year if a president was not elected. Greece emerged this year from a six-year recession and the 182-billion-euro economy is expected to expand by 0.6 percent this year and 2.9 percent in 2015.

Later on Monday, Hardouvelis said EU and IMF inspectors are expected to return to Athens early in January and conclude the review before a Jan. 26 meeting of euro zone ministers.

Greece needs to repay IMF loans worth about 2.8 billion euros by the end of March. Its next major funding hurdle comes in July and August when it has to repay over 5 billion euros in maturing debt.

The presidential vote will be held over three rounds starting Wednesday and ending on Dec. 29.

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