Greece’s ruling centre-right party New Democracy (ND) has achieved a decisive victory but fallen short of securing an outright majority in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, leaving its main rival the centre-left Syriza party far behind.
The country’s conservative prime minister and the leader of the ND, Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the result as a “political earthquake” while his centre-left rival Alexis Tsipras conceded defeat as his Syriza party faced a disappointing outcome with around 20 per cent of the vote and 71 seats, losing 15 MPs in the parliament.
The elections were greatly influenced by concerns over the high cost of living and also to some extent by public anger surrounding the country’s deadliest train crash.
The scale of the ND’s victory came as a surprise to many since the 20-point margin between the two main parties surpassed the predictions of pre-election polls.
The ND secured nearly 41 per cent of the vote and 146 seats in the parliament. However, since the elections were held under the proportional electoral system, the centre-right party failed to reach the 46 per cent required to form a government on its own.
Mitsotakis stressed that the outcome of the election reflected the people’s desire for a majority-run Greece led solely by his party. Mitsotakis’ remarks were interpreted as an indication that he would not pursue a coalition government and would instead opt for a second election in late June.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou will offer Mitsotakis a mandate to form a coalition. If he declines, the president will then extend the offer to the next two parties in line, and if those attempts fail, a caretaker government will be arranged until new elections can take place.
In the event of coalition talks by the second party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the social-democratic rival of Syriza, could be a potential partner. The PASOK saw a significant boost in the election, garnering 11.5 per cent of the vote.
However, any potential coalition talks may prove challenging as PASOK leader Nikos Androulakis was implicated in a wiretapping scandal last year, resulting in the resignation of Mitsotakis’ nephew, who served as the prime minister’s chief of staff, and head of Greek intelligence.
Although there were massive protests following a tragic rail accident in February which claimed the lives of 57 people, the incident did not appear to have a notable impact on the election results. Opposition parties had highlighted the tragedy as indicative of a dysfunctional government following years of economic crisis and underinvestment.
While Tsipras witnessed a significant decrease in its share of the vote, the PASOK party experienced a surge in votes, maintaining its position as the third-largest party, and the Communist Party of Greece also saw an increase in its share of the vote, securing the fourth position with 7.2 per cent.
The paramount concerns for Greek voters in this election revolved around the country’s economic future, as well as their personal financial struggles. The ND’s campaign focused on highlighting Greece’s successful economic recovery since they came to power in 2019, with Mitsotakis positioning himself as a dependable leader capable of further enhancing growth. While the country’s economy has made significant strides in the past decade and is on the verge of regaining investment-grade status, many Greeks have yet to experience the benefits due to high inflation and living costs.
The financial crisis that plagued Greece throughout the 2010s resulted in substantial cuts to salaries and pensions, pushing numerous individuals into poverty. Tsipras, the leader of the main opposition Syriza party, sought a second chance with promises of radical change, having been in power 2015-2019, but fell short of convincing the voters.