April 20, 2024

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Greek elections: Center-right Mitsotakis heads for a short-than-majority victory

Greek elections: Center-right Mitsotakis heads for a short-than-majority victory
  • By Nick Beck in Athens and Paul Kirby in London
  • BBC News

photo caption,

Kyriakos Mitsotakis was heading for a much wider margin of victory than the pollsters expected

Greece’s conservative New Democracy party won Sunday’s election, falling just a few seats short of an outright victory.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ party received nearly 41%, based on more than two-thirds of the vote.

He was congratulated by his centre-left rival Alexis Tsipras, whose party was poised for a poor result of only 20%.

Despite the center-right’s big win, it may choose a second round of voting rather than seek a coalition.

An initial poll indicating a centre-right victory was greeted with cheers at New Democracy’s headquarters in Athens. As the results came in, it was clear that pre-election polls had underestimated the large margin between the two major parties.

Other big winners in the election included Syriza’s socialist rival PASOK, who was set to win 12% of the vote.

That would make the party a potential kingmaker if the prime minister seeks coalition talks in the coming days.

Mitsotakis’ new democracy has ruled Greece for the past four years, and she can boast that the country’s growth last year was close to 6%.

His plan for the nation was that only he could be trusted to steer the Greek economy forward and boost recent growth. Most Greeks seem to have responded positively – and more than expected.

He told the BBC that Greece deserved a better form of politics, but endorsed Mitsotakis because he was impressed by his record after four years as prime minister.

Four years ago, winning 41% of the vote would have been enough to secure a majority in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.

Now it takes more than 45%, because the winning party is no longer entitled to the 50-seat bonus in the first round, making the second round more likely.

Even if New Democracy looks to PASOK for support, socialist leader Nikos Androulakis may find it difficult to work in government with Mitsotakis because of last year’s wiretapping scandal.

Mr Androulakis believes the prime minister knew he was one of dozens of people targeted by illegal spyware.

The scandal led to the resignation of Mitsotakis’ nephew, who was serving as chief of staff to the prime minister, as well as head of Greek intelligence.

Mr. Mitsotakis may decide to direct all his energies into a second round of voting. That would give him an absolute majority and four more years with a government of his choosing.

But the election campaign was overshadowed by a railway tragedy in February that claimed the lives of 57 people, many of them students.

Opposition parties have highlighted the disaster as a symptom of a dysfunctional state that has been reduced to the bone after years of economic crisis and lack of investment.

First-time voters Chrisanthe and Vagelis, both 18, voted for Syriza because their generation wanted “something new, something different”.