Legislative elections in Greece: the center-right party far ahead in the counting of the votes | world news
Greece’s general election failed to produce a winner despite incumbent Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ center-right party winning 41% of the vote with more than 70% of the ballots counted.
New Democracy led by a 20-point margin over the main left-wing opposition party Syriza, at just over 20.07% – a difference rarely seen since the 1974 collapse of military rule. Even in Crete, a socialist stronghold, the right-wing party has done surprisingly well.
“It looks like New Democracy will win a very important victory,” said Giorgos Geropetritis, a former minister of state and one of Mitsotakis’ closest colleagues. “The Greek people took stock of the past and voted for the future… they voted for future generations.” Other government officials described the result as a “spectacular victory”.
Under a new proportional representation electoral system introduced under former prime minister and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, the winner needed around 46% of the vote to win an absolute majority of 151 seats in the 300-member parliament. That, for any party, had been an impossible feat.
With more than 76% of the votes counted, the small parties, including MeRa 25, led by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, failed to cross the 3% threshold to enter parliament.
The inconclusive result will set the stage for another poll in July if, as expected, efforts to form a coalition government fail. The run-off poll, scheduled for July 2, will be held under a semi-proportional representation system that would grant the first party an additional 50 seats if it wins 40% of the vote.
On Monday, as protocol requires, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou will give Mitsotakis a three-day mandate to explore options for forming a coalition. Aides said the 55-year-old leader, who appeared in an exuberant mood as he arrived at New Democracy headquarters in Athens, would prefer a new ballot, with Sunday’s result reinforcing his view that a one-party government was ” more than possible”.
Throughout the election campaign, he had insisted that the country’s interests could only be served by a “strong majority” government that would allow him to push forward his reform agenda during a second term of office. four years. If, as seems likely, Mitsotakis returns the mandate to Sakellaropoulou, Syriza will in theory follow although the result does not indicate that a coalition government is feasible, arithmetically, even if there was a consensus among left-wing parties to create such an administration.
The ruling party’s popularity was thought to have been badly shaken by a wiretapping scandal and a devastating train crash – events that cast a pall over Mitsotakis, a former banker, personally.
But Syriza’s surprisingly poor performance seemed to confirm the view that Greeks had voted for stability – although many were unsettled by what was seen as a democratic backsliding under the centre-right government, the scandal of the spies pointing out these concerns.
In an election dominated by anxiety over the cost-of-living crisis, Greeks chose the economy, citing memories of the national debt drama a decade ago and punitive austerity inflicted in return for emergency fund to keep the country afloat. Sunday’s poll was the first since the EU and IMF, which orchestrated the biggest bailout in global financial history to avert a Greek default, stopped overseeing the country’s finances.
But the trauma persists. The budget cuts demanded in exchange for a bailout have come at a heavy price: Greece’s economy has shrunk by more than 25%m, fueling a recession from which the nation is only beginning to recover. “The idea of more adventures after everything we’ve been through swayed my vote,” said Maria Lygera, echoing a common refrain.
The 48-year-old mother of three was part of a large cohort of undecided voters estimated at nearly 13% before the polls opened.
“Until I walked into the voting booth, I didn’t know which direction I would go,” she said.
“I wanted to punish New Democracy for the wiretapping scandal, but I also wanted to make sure there was a strong centre-left party there. Because it’s definitely not Syriza, I voted Pasok.
The Pasok party came third with just under 12%, which its jubilant leaders said put it on track to replace Syriza as the main centre-left opposition.
Mitsotakis promised to cut taxes further, lower unemployment – hovering around 11% from a peak of 30% during the crisis – and stimulate the economy by attracting more foreign direct investment. His election campaign motto has been “stability”, with the politician referring to the turmoil of Syriza’s tenure when Tsipras, its incendiary leader, was catapulted to power in 2015.
Tsipras, 48, toned down radical rhetoric that initially appealed to his base, but throughout the election campaign he has pledged to raise public sector wages to help blunt the effects of the crisis. cost-of-living crisis and to modernize state facilities, including the public health system. Senior Syriza officials described the outcome as deeply disappointing and far from what the left-wing party had hoped to achieve.
More than 9 million Greeks were eligible to vote in a vote held under a rarely used proportional representation system.
In a historic step, Greeks abroad were also able to participate in polling stations set up in the United Kingdom and in major cities in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia. Voter turnout is reportedly high among the more than 22,000 diaspora Greeks registered to vote.
But from the start, the new electoral procedure had made it virtually impossible for any candidate to obtain the 46% required to form a one-party government. Not since 1981, when Andreas Papandreou charged to victory on the slogan of allagi or “change”, was this feat achieved.
With such a likelihood that the outcome would be inconclusive, Mitsotakis had raised the specter of a follow-up election in July before Greeks even started voting.