Greece’s conservative New Democracy party won a landslide victory in the country’s second election in five weeks Sunday, with partial official results showing it gaining a comfortable parliamentary majority to form a government for a second four-year term.
Official results from nearly 90% of voting centers nationwide showed Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ party with just over 40% of the vote, with his main rival, the left-wing Syriza party, suffering a crushing defeat with just under 18%, even worse than its 20% in the last elections in May.
Sunday’s vote came just over a week after a migrant ship capsized and sank off the western coast of Greece, leaving hundreds of people dead and missing and calling into question the actions of Greek authorities and the country’s strict migration policy. But the disaster, one of the worst in the Mediterranean in recent years, did not affect the election, with domestic economic issues at the forefront of voters’ minds.
Mitsotakis’ party was projected to win around 157 or 158 of Parliament’s 300 seats, thanks to a change in the electoral law that grants the winning party bonus seats. The previous election in May, conducted under a proportional representation system, left him five seats short of a majority despite winning 41% of the vote.
In all, eight parties are projected to surpass the 3% threshold to enter Parliament, including an ultra-religious party and far right party backed by a jailed former lawmaker from the Nazi-inspired and now outlawed Golden Dawn party. The number of parties that make it into Parliament will affect how many seats the winner will hold.
Mitsotakis, 55, campaigned on a platform of securing economic growth and political stability as Greece gradually recovers from a brutal nearly decade-long financial crisis.
His main rival, 48-year-old Alexis Tsipras, served as prime minister from 2015 to 2019 — some of the most turbulent years of Greece’s nearly decade-long financial crisis. His performance Sunday leaves him fighting for his political survival. After his poor showing in May elections, he had struggled to rally his voter base, a task complicated by splinter parties formed by some of his former associates.
Speaking after voting in a western Athens neighborhood, Tsipras seemed to accept his party would be in opposition for the next four years even while the voting was still ongoing.
“This crucial election is not only determining who will govern the country, it is determining our lives for the next four years, it is determining the quality of our democracy,” Tsipras said. “It is determining whether we will have an unchecked government or a strong opposition. This role can only be played by Syriza.”
Mitsotakis, a Harvard graduate, comes from one of Greece’s most prominent political families. His late father, Constantine Mitsotakis, served as prime minister in the 1990s, his sister served as foreign minister and his nephew is the current mayor of Athens. The younger Mitsotakis has vowed to rebrand Greece as a pro-business and fiscally responsible euro zone member.
The strategy, so far, has worked. New Democracy routed left-wing opponents in May, crucially winning Socialist strongholds on the island of Crete and lower-income areas surrounding Athens, some for the first time.
“We are voting so people can have a stable government for the next four years,” Mitsotakis said after voting in northern Athens Sunday. “I am sure that Greeks will vote with maturity for their personal prosperity and the country’s stability.”
Despite scandals that hit the Mitsotakis government late in its term, including revelations of wiretapping targeting senior politicians and journalists, and a deadly Feb. 28 train crash that exposed poor safety measures in public transport, voters appear happy to return to power a prime minister who delivered economic growth and lowered unemployment.
“Our expectations are that the country will continue the path of development that it has had in recent years,” said insurance company employee Konstantinos, who arrived early in the morning at a polling station in northern Athens with his newly wed bride Marietta, still in her wedding dress, straight from their wedding reception. He asked that his surname not be used.
Another early morning voter, Sofia Oikonomopoulou, said she hoped the winning party on Sunday would have enough parliamentary seats to form a government “so that the country will not suffer any more.”
“We hope for better days, for justice, a health system, education, that everything will go better and that the Greek truly will be able to live a better life through these elections,” she said.
Sunday’s vote is being held under an electoral system that grants a bonus of between 25 and 50 seats to the winning party, depending on its performance, which makes it easier for a party to win more than the required 151 seats in the 300-member parliament to form a government.
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