Five Takeaways From Greece’s Election

Greece's Prime Minister and leader of New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis, center, addresses supporters at the headquarters of his party in Athens, Greece, Sunday, May 21, 2023. The conservative party of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has won a landslide election but without enough parliamentary seats to form a government. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Greece’s Prime Minister and leader of New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis, center, addresses supporters at the headquarters of his party in Athens, Greece, Sunday, May 21, 2023. The conservative party of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has won a landslide election but without enough parliamentary seats to form a government. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

New Democracy scored its best result since 2007 at 40.79 percent, beating the leftist Syriza party of former premier Alexis Tsipras by over 20 points — the widest margin between the two leading parties in a Greek election since 1974

A crushing victory in Greece’s elections Sunday by the conservative New Democracy party of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will nevertheless lead to a new ballot in a month, as the winner fell short of a majority.

Here are five takeaways from the vote in the eastern Mediterranean country of 10.5 million people:

– Huge win comes up empty –

New Democracy scored its best result since 2007 at 40.79 percent, beating the leftist Syriza party of former premier Alexis Tsipras by over 20 points — the widest margin between the two leading parties in a Greek election since 1974.

But under a proportional representation electoral system introduced by Tsipras, New Democracy won 146 seats, five short of a majority in the 300-deputy parliament.

Mitsotakis on Monday declined a mandate to form a coalition government and said Greece should head for new elections “as soon as possible”, stating a preference for June 25.

The new election will be governed by different rules that grant the winner bonus seats in parliament.

– Left penalised –

Tsipras lost his fourth straight election to Mitsotakis after a campaign in which he accused the ruling party of profiteering, inequality, nepotism, indifference, arrogance and injustice.

But the message failed to register with voters.

The former premier — who led the 2015 bailout negotiations that nearly crashed Greece out of the euro — saw his party lose 600,000 votes compared to the 2019 election.

Syriza finished second even in Tsipras’ home village near Arta, northwestern Greece.

Tsipras for now remains in charge of his party but the next election is do-or-die for his political future.

Another casualty Sunday was Tsipras’ former maverick finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, whose anti-austerity MeRA25 party failed to garner enough support to make it to parliament.

– Abstention fears unfounded –

As the ballot was not expected to be decisive, many feared mass abstentions and such concerns seemed vindicated when the first turnout was reported at just 31.5 percent of the electorate.

In the end, however, nearly 61 percent of Greeks turned out to vote, higher than in 2019.

– Forgiving voters –

Greece was swept by nationwide protests after 57 people died in a collision between two trains in February, the country’s worst rail disaster.

Rumoured plans to hold the election in April were scrapped, the transport minister resigned and Mitsotakis was forced to apologise for the poor state of the railway network.

The government was also slammed over a wire-tapping scandal implicating the state intelligence agency, which is overseen by Mitsotakis’ own office.

The head of the intelligence agency and a nephew of Mitsotakis, who was a top office aide, both resigned over the scandal.

But talk of retribution against the ruling party failed to materialise at the ballot, where conservative voters re-elected Mitsotakis’ under-fire transport minister.

– Youth turn right –

For months, it was widely expected that nearly 440,000 young voters taking part in elections for the first time — some as young as 16 — would side with the leftist party of 48-year-old Tsipras.

Greece is struggling with high youth unemployment and even those lucky enough to have a job barely earn enough to cover their rent.

But in the end, a third of the 17-24 age bracket apparently sided with Mitsotakis’ conservatives, Sunday’s exit poll found.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – AFP)