Greece’s prime minister defies the polls to trounce the opposition
Athens correspondent reports:
Greece’s ruling centre-right New Democracy (ND) party came first by an impressive margin in an election held on May 21st; but it failed to secure an outright majority in parliament. It now looks likely that another election will have to be held, probably in June or July, as the moderate socialist party, Pasok, has ruled out joining a coalition government under nd’s leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Mr Mitsotakis is not interested in forming a coalition at this stage either.
With over 90% of ballots counted, ND was leading with 40.8%, to an unexpectedly dismal 20.1% for the radical left-wing Syriza party, which had been in office until 2019. Pasok trailed in third place on 11.6%. But it looks as though Mr Mitsotakis will fall a few seats short of a majority in the 300-member parliament.
Still, the result puts the prime minister in pole position to win a second term, under a revised proportional voting system that will give whichever party gets the most votes a sliding bonus of between 20 and 50 extra seats. A caretaker prime minister would normally be appointed to run the country until that second election is held assuming, as seems probable, that no coalition can be formed.
Two small parties, the hard-right Hellenic Solution and the Communist Party of Greece, were also set to win the minimum 3% of the vote needed to take seats in parliament. But it seemed that Mera25, the radical left-wing party of Yanis Varoufakis, Syriza’s former finance minister, would fall below the threshold.
Analysts ruled out the possibility of a former premier, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, forming a coalition government with Pasok if nd also falls short of a majority in the next election (unlikely if the figures on May 21st are replicated, once the bonus is added in). “It’s more likely if the gap is tight that New Democracy could persuade a handful of socialist personalities to defect and make up the numbers,” one pollster said.
Syriza’s unexpectedly poor showing suggested it had failed to rally most of the 400,000 new voters aged between 16 and 21, contrary to pollsters’ forecasts. In recent elections the under-24 age group has mostly backed left-wing parties; with youth unemployment estimated to be over 25%, new voters are fearful about their job prospects.
The young were especially angry about a disastrous train accident in February, blamed on negligence by rail employees and outdated signalling systems, in which more than 50 people, mostly students, died. “It’s sad we are still so far behind Europe on basic management practices,” said Charalambos, an 18-year-old economics student.
But the election made clear that nd’s appeal to older voters is still strong. Conservative candidates campaigned on the government’s solid record of restoring economic stability. They cited Syriza’s chaotic early months in power in 2015, which took Greece to the brink of a disorderly exit from the euro followed by three years of harsh austerity. No longer under post-bailout surveillance by the EU, the economy is set to grow by 2.4% this year, above the projected euro-zone average.
Yet inflation remains a worry. Though the rate has come down sharply, to only 3% year-on-year in April, earlier huge increases in food prices have curtailed household spending. Tourists rather than locals are filling restaurants around Athens at the start of the season. According to EU statistics, almost a third of Greeks are still at risk of poverty.
Despite the economic rebound, some Greeks worry about a revival of what they call the “traditional authoritarian attitudes” of right-of-centre governments. Greece again came last among EU countries in this year’s global press-freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders. European officials are investigating a wiretapping scandal in which the state intelligence service spied on Greek politicians, journalists and businesspeople. The government has passed a law banning the use of spyware, but its own investigation of the scandal is moving very slowly.
The New York Times
With His Party Ahead in Elections, Greek Leader Claims ‘Political Earthquake’
NYT correspondent Vicky Kitsadonis reports:
The party of Greece’s conservative prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was on track to win a decisive victory in the general election on Sunday but fell short of the majority required to lead a one-party government, setting the stage for another ballot within weeks since Mr. Mitsotakis appeared to rule out forming a governing coalition.
Mr. Mitsotakis described the preliminary outcome as a “political earthquake” that called for an “experienced hand to the helm” of Greece, and said that any negotiations with fractious potential coalition partners would only lead to a dead end.
With 93.7 percent of the votes counted on Sunday night and his party, New Democracy, leading the opposition Syriza by 20 percentage points, Mr. Mitsotakis greeted a crowd of cheering supporters outside his party’s office in Athens.
“We kept the country upright and we’ve laid the foundations for a better nation,” he said. “We will fight the next battle together so that at the next elections what we already decided on, an autonomous New Democracy, will be realized.”
New Democracy had captured 40.8 percent of the votes by Sunday night, preliminary results showed, after calling on Greeks to opt for economic and political stability over “chaos” in a tense campaign. The center-left Syriza party, led by former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, under whose tenure Greece came close to leaving the eurozone in 2015, landed in second place, with 20.7 percent of the votes. The socialist Pasok-Kinal party took third place, securing 11.6 percent.
Mr. Tsipras said in a statement that he had called to congratulate Mr. Mitsotakis on his victory, and that his party would convene to discuss the result given that a second election appeared all but assured.
On Monday, when the final result is clear, the leading party will get a mandate to try to form a government. But it appeared most likely that the prime minister will not explore that option, leading to a new election, possibly in June or early July.
New Democracy was on track to win 145 seats in the 300-seat Parliament, with 72 seats for Syriza, preliminary results showed. Syriza’s poor performance spurred speculation in the Greek news media about the center-left party’s future.
The Financial Times
Greece premier Mitsotakis routs rivals in parliamentary election
FT correspondent Eleni Varvitsioti reports:
Greece’s premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis has routed his main rivals in Sunday’s parliamentary election, unexpectedly increasing his centre-right party’s share of the vote but falling just short of an outright majority. With 95 per cent counted, the ruling New Democracy party secured nearly 41 per cent, building a lead of more than 20 points over its nearest rival, the radical left Syriza party of former prime minister Alexis Tsipras. While the result far exceeds polls in the run-up to the vote, Mitsotakis is still expected to call a second election in the summer because his party was projected to secure only 145 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament.
Elections en Grèce : la droite obtient une nette victoire, mais pas suffisante pour former un gouvernement
Par Marina Rafenberg (Athènes, correspondance)
« C’est un séisme politique, une victoire incontestable », s’est félicité, dimanche 21 mai au soir, le premier ministre grec, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, dans son quartier général de campagne. Après quatre ans au pouvoir, le dirigeant conservateur, à la tête du parti Nouvelle Démocratie, a réussi son pari en recueillant près de 41 % des suffrages lors des élections législatives, améliorant son résultat de 2019.
Durant sa campagne, cet héritier d’une grande famille politique a mis en avant les récentes réussites économiques de la Grèce, sortie d’une décennie de crise : croissance de près de 6 % en 2022, explosion du tourisme, retour des investissements étrangers.
Surtout, Kyriakos Mitsotakis s’est présenté comme un rempart face à toute incertitude économique ou géopolitique. Afin de contrer le voisin turc, qui ne cesse de remettre en question l’intégrité territoriale du pays en envoyant des avions et des navires près de ses îles, les électeurs « ont choisi une main expérimentée pour tenir le gouvernail », estime le premier ministre. Conscient des inégalités sociales aiguës, des ravages de l’inflation pour les ménages les moins aisés et des bas salaires, il a promis de prendre le « chemin du progrès », d’augmenter les rémunérations et de renforcer le système public de santé.