ATHENS. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his conservative party had unleashed a “political earthquake” by winning elections on Sunday (May 21st), as he hinted he would seek a new ballot to win an absolute majority that would allow him to rule alone. :
With just under 82 percent of the ballots counted, his New Democracy party won 40.8 percent of the vote, 20 points ahead of its nearest rival, leftist Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party, which won 20.1 percent.
Despite the clear victory, the conservatives were several seats short of an outright majority, meaning Mitsotakis had the choice of seeking a coalition or a new ballot for a decisive result.
The 55-year-old specialist clearly stated his preference.
“Citizens want a powerful government with a four-year horizon,” he said.
“Today’s political earthquake calls on all of us to speed up the process for a final governmental solution,” he added.
His rival, Tsipras, also laid the groundwork for a new vote, saying that “the election cycle is not over yet.”
The next battle, he said, would be “critical and final.”
Mitsotakis, a Harvard graduate and former McKinsey consultant, entered the election as the favorite, and Greece currently enjoys fairly robust economic health.
Unemployment and inflation have fallen, and growth is forecast to reach twice the European Union average this year, a far cry from the debt crisis of a decade ago.
With a post-Covid tourism revival pushing the country’s growth to 5.9 percent in 2022, Mitsotakis campaigned on a promise to build on the economic benefits.
However, fears that wages are not keeping pace with rising costs remain a key concern among voters, something his rival Tsipras has sought to exploit.
But the result is a crushing blow to Tsipras, who lost his fourth straight election battle with Mitsotakis after serving as prime minister from 2015 to 2019, during which he negotiated difficult negotiations with creditors that nearly kicked Greece out of the euro.
Tsipras lost a third of his party’s 2019 percentage and in some areas fell behind the third-placed socialist Pasok-Kinal party, led by 44-year-old Nikos Androulakis.
Another casualty on Sunday was Tsipras’ flamboyant former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, whose anti-austerity MeRA25 party failed to enter parliament.
Androulakis was initially seen as a potential coalition partner for Mitsotakis, but things turned sour when he discovered he was under state surveillance, controlled by the prime minister’s office.
The wiretapping scandal that erupted last year forced the resignation of the head of the intelligence service and Mitsotakis’ nephew, who was a top aide in his office.
Although it caused a stir, the spy saga did not appear to have much of an impact on the Conservatives’ results, which were much better than the 6-8 percent lead pollsters had predicted ahead of the election.
Anger over a train crash that killed 57 people in February also didn’t seem to significantly affect the vote.
The government initially blamed the accident, Greece’s worst-ever rail disaster, on human error, although the country’s notoriously poor rail network has suffered from years of underinvestment.
“WE HAVE THE FUTURE”.
Welcoming the results, 62-year-old pensioner Glykeria Tsima said: “Democracy won today, not only New Democracy, but all democracy.
“We want to see the continuation of what has been created in the last four years and leave the toxicity behind us. We Greeks went through hard times and saw that with this government and this prime minister we have a future.”
But Georgios Koulouris, 60, an Australian-based miner who returned to vote, says deep challenges and inequality plague the country.
“There is a segment of people who literally live on a pittance,” he said, adding that Greece is suffering from a brain drain due to stagnant wages and exploding rents.
Voter turnout has reached 60 percent and abstentions are lower than previously thought.