Greece’s Conservative Party Requires Second Majority Vote for Victory
Greece’s conservative party led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis scored a landslide victory in Sunday’s election, but will seek a second election to win an outright majority in parliament.
Near perfect results showed Mitsotakis New Democratic Party a full 20 percentage point lead over its main rival, the left-wing Syriza party. But the new electoral system of proportional representation meant that his 40% stake was not enough to secure a majority of the 300 seats in parliament. To form a government, he will either have to look for a coalition partner from a smaller party or head to a second election.
The prime minister said he would follow “all constitutional procedures” but reiterated his view that the current electoral system which created the need for a coalition is more like a “party barter”.
“There is no doubt that today’s political earthquake calls for all of us to accelerate the process of reaching a final governmental solution so that our country has an experienced hand at the helm as soon as possible.”
Jubilant New Democracy supporters crowded outside the party’s headquarters in Athens, cheering and waving party flags.
A second election, likely in late June or early July, is scheduled under a new electoral law that will award additional seats to the winning party, making it easier for it to form a government on its own.
Sunday’s election was Greece’s first since its economy ceased to be tightly monitored by international lenders who provided bailout money during the country’s nearly decade-long financial crisis.
Syriza President Alexis Tsipras, 48, served as prime minister during some of the most tumultuous years of the crisis and has struggled to regain the broad support he enjoyed when he came to power in 2015 on the promise of reversing the austerity measures imposed by the bailout.
Mitsotakis called Sunday night to congratulate him on his victory.
“The result is exceptionally negative for Syriza,” Tsipras said in preliminary statements after his party’s dramatic defeat became clear. Battles have winners and losers.
Tsipras said his party would meet to examine the results and how they came about. “But the election cycle is not over yet,” he said. “We don’t have much time. We must immediately implement all the required changes so that we can fight the next, crucial and final electoral battle on the best possible terms.”
When the huge gap between the first two parties became clear, Syriza supporters expressed their displeasure.
“I am so sorry about the terrible condition of these people (who voted for New Democracy),” said Georgy Kollouri, a Syriza supporter, standing near the Syriza campaign booth in central Athens. “People who understand their situation — the poverty and misery they were put in — and still vote for them, they deserve what they get.”
Mitsotakis, the 55-year-old former Harvard executive, won election in 2019 on a promise of business-oriented reforms and a pledge to pursue tax cuts, boost investment and support middle-class employment.
The steady lead he enjoyed in opinion polls in the run-up to the election was dented by the Feb. 28 railway disaster that killed 57 people. Authorities said that an intercity passenger train was mistakenly placed on the same railway line as an oncoming freight train, and it was later revealed that the train stations were poorly staffed and the safety infrastructure was broken and outdated.
The government was also hit by a surveillance scandal in which prominent Greek journalists and politicians discovered spyware on their phones. The disclosure of the information deepened the mistrust between the country’s political parties.
Syriza’s campaign focused heavily on both the wiretapping scandal and the train crash.
The once-dominant PASOK party, which was overtaken by Syriza during the 2009-2018 Greek financial crisis, also did well in Sunday’s election, winning just over 11%. Its leader, Nikos Androulakis, 44, was at the center of a wiretapping scandal in which his phone was targeted for surveillance.
Androulakis’ poor relationship with Mitsotakis, whom he accuses of covering up a wiretapping scandal, means a potential coalition deal with the conservatives will prove difficult. His relationship with Tsipras is also bad after he accused him of trying to poach PASOK voters.
Since coming to power in 2019, Mitsotakis has delivered unexpectedly high growth, a sharp drop in unemployment, and a country about to return to investment grade in the global bond market for the first time since losing access to the market in 2010 at the start of the financial crisis.
Debt to the International Monetary Fund was paid early. European governments and the International Monetary Fund pumped 280 billion euros ($300 billion) in emergency loans to the Greek economy between 2010 and 2018 to prevent the eurozone member from going bankrupt. In exchange, they demanded that cost-cutting measures and reforms that have shrunk the country’s economy be punished by a quarter.
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