The leader of Greece’s conservative New Democracy party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, vowed to speed up reforms following his landslide victory on Sunday in the country’s second election in five weeks that gave him a comfortable parliamentary majority to form a government for a second four-term term. years.
Jubilant supporters gathered outside the party’s headquarters in Athens, cheering, clapping, setting off fireworks and waving blue and white party flags. The almost complete results show that his party won just over 40.5% of the vote, crushing its main rival, the left-wing Syriza party, which was struggling to reach 18%, 2 percentage points less than in the last elections in May.
“With today’s election result, Greece opens a new historic chapter in its course,” Mitsotakis said in a televised statement. The voters, he said, “gave us a strong mandate to move faster in the course of the great changes our country needs. In a strong and mature way they have permanently closed a traumatic cycle of lies and toxicity that held the country back and divided the society”. .”
His second term as prime minister “can transform Greece into a dynamic pace of development that will raise wages and reduce inequality, with better and free public health care, with a more effective and digital state and a strong country,” he added.
Sunday’s vote came just over a week after a migrant boat capsized and sank off the western coast of Greece, leaving hundreds dead and missing and calling into question the actions of the Greek authorities and the strict immigration policy of the country. But the disaster, one of the worst in the Mediterranean in recent years, did not affect the elections, with internal economic problems at the forefront of voters’ minds.
Mr Mitsotakis’s party was projected to win 158 of Parliament’s 300 seats, thanks to a change in electoral law that awards bonus seats to the winning party. The previous election in May, conducted under a proportional representation system, left him five seats short of a majority despite winning almost 41% of the vote, and he had decided to seek a stronger mandate in a second election rather than seek to form a coalition government with a smaller party.
However, voter turnout was low on Sunday, with just under 53% of eligible voters, compared with just over 61% in the May ballot.
In all, eight parties were passing the 3% threshold to enter Parliament, including an ultra-religious party and a far-right party backed by a jailed former lawmaker from the Nazi-inspired and now outlawed Golden Dawn party.
Mr. Mitsotakis campaigned on a platform of ensuring economic growth and political stability as Greece gradually recovers from a brutal financial crisis of nearly a decade.
His main rival, Alexis Tsipras, was prime minister from 2015 to 2019, one of the most turbulent years of Greece’s financial crisis. His performance on Sunday leaves him fighting for his political survival. After his poor showing in the May election, he had struggled to rally his voter base, a task complicated by splinter parties made up of some of his former associates.
“The election results are obviously negative for us,” Tsipras said in a televised statement. “We have suffered a serious electoral defeat. But I think that the electoral result is mainly negative for society and for democracy, ”he added, noting that the three small right-wing parties obtained enough votes to reach Parliament.
It would be up to party members, he said, to decide on their fate and the course the party itself should now take.
Party members will be asked to judge us all and devise the strategy that suits these difficult circumstances, Mr. Tsipras said.
Mr. 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 vowed to rebrand Greece as a business-friendly and fiscally responsible member of the eurozone.
The strategy, so far, has worked. New Democracy defeated Syriza in May, crucially winning socialist strongholds on the island of Crete and low-income areas around Athens, some for the first time.
Despite scandals that plagued the Mitsotakis government at the end of his term, including revelations of wiretaps targeting high-level politicians and journalists, and a deadly train accident on February 28 that exposed poor security measures in public transport, voters seem happy to return to power a prime minister who generated economic growth and reduced unemployment.
“Our expectations are that the country will continue the development path it has been on in recent years,” said insurance company employee Konstantinos, who arrived early in the morning at a polling station in northern Athens with his newlywed girlfriend. married Marietta, still in her wedding dress, straight from her wedding reception. He asked that his last name not be used.
Sunday’s vote took place under an electoral system that awards a bonus of between 25 and 50 seats to the winning party, depending on its performance, making it easier for a party to win more than the required 151 seats in the 300-member parliament. to form a government.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.