Conservative Greek PM wins plurality in legislative elections

(Update 3: Includes additional vote count info, statements)

Athens, May 21 (EFE).- The prime minister of Greece and leader of the conservative New Democracy party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, handily won a plurality in Sunday’s legislative elections, besting his main rival, Alexis Tsipras of the leftist Syriza party by more than 20 percentage points, according to preliminary partial results.

With 91 percent of the ballots counted, the ND obtained more than 40 percent support to Syriza’s 20 percent, the Greek Interior Ministry reported, a far better ND showing than voter surveys had predicted.

In third place are the Pasok-Kinal socialists with 12 percent of the votes, followed by the Greek Communist Party with 7 percent and the ultrarightist Greek Solution party with 4.5 percent.

With 2.5 percent, the leftist MeRA25 party of former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will not receive representation in Parliament, not having surpassed the 3 percent threshold for obtaining seats in the 300-seat legislature.

Voter participation in the election was 60.6 percent, a figure 3 percent higher than participation in the country’s most recent nationwide vote in 2019.

The result is a clear expression of public support for the economic management of Mitsotakis over the past four years to bring Greece out of its long and exhausting sovereign debt crisis that in 2010 pushed the country to the edge of bankruptcy.

Although the country remains one of the poorest in the European Union, its economy grew in 2021 and 2022 by 8.4 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively, much higher than the EU average.

Foreign investment has also increased significantly, and the improvement in the economy enabled Mitsotakis to reduce taxes, raise pensions and the minimum wage.

Although failing to obtain an absolute majority in Sunday’s balloting, Mitsotakis said that “The result has demonstrated that the ND has the approval of the citizenry to govern alone,” that is without coalition partners.

“We have to make more radical changes to cover the ground that separates us from Europe,” said the prime minister, and that cannot be done with “insecure” alliances with other parties.

Syriza emerged as the big loser in the balloting, its support declining by 11 percentage points from what it had obtained in the 2019 election and an unprecedented occurrence in Greek electoral history.

Meanwhile, Tsipras said in a video message admitting his party’s defeat, “I spoke with Mitsotakis and I congratulated him on his victory.”

The election was held using a new proportional voting system enabling parties obtaining at least 45 percent of the votes to hold an absolute majority in terms of parliamentary seats, although no party appears to have crossed that threshold in the current balloting.

Minister of State Yorgos Yerapetritis, a conservative, said that the results constitute “a clear directive” by the Greek people for the ND to govern without having to obtain coalition partners.

To achieve that, however, and given the fact that the ND is not inclined to solicit the coalition support of other parties, Greeks will probably have to go to the polls again for a runoff election between the top vote-getting parties, most likely in early July.

The anticipation is that with the field cleared of other parties the ND will probably obtain a premium of up to 50 seats, thus giving it a parliamentary majority.

But before calling new elections, three attempts to form a majority government must be made by the leaders of the parties obtaining the most votes, a process that will begin in the coming days.

These elections are the first held in Greece in the last 13 years of its ongoing economic crisis without the country being under the strict economic supervision of the European Union – oversight imposed after its first bailout in 2012 to tackle the debt crisis – were marked by the rising cost of living, which is of major concern to the public.

Nearly 10 million people were registered to vote at the 21,500 polling stations open until 7 pm throughout the country.

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