Greek election: Centre-right Mitsotakis hails big win but wants majority

  • By Nick Peake in Athens and Paul Kirby in London
  • BBC News

image source, Aris Messinis/AFP

image caption,

Kyriakos Mitsotakis has made it clear that he wants to govern without interference from other parties

Greece’s conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis won national elections, hailing his party’s landslide victory as a “political earthquake”.

His centre-right New Democrats won almost 41% of the vote, five seats short of a majority.

He was congratulated by his centre-left rival Alexis Tsipras, whose SYRIZA party had a poor result of 20%.

Mr Mitsotakis said the result showed Greeks had given his party a four-year mandate.

“People wanted Greece run by a majority government and run by a new democracy without the help of others,” he said in his victory speech.

Exit polls cheered as party supporters in Athens hours earlier pointed to an unexpected measure of New Democracy’s success. As the results came in, it became clear that pre-election polls had underestimated the 20-point gap between the two major parties.

The prime minister’s comments suggest that he does not want to share power with another party, but is taken to mean going to a second election at the end of June, when the winning party gets bonus seats.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou will offer him the chance to form a coalition, but it is already clear that he will refuse.

The result was a major setback for Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, who described his party’s performance as “very negative”. He came to power in 2015 campaigning against the austerity measures of international bailouts, but eventually acquiesced to creditors’ demands.

The center-right has ruled Greece for the past four years, and can boast that the country’s growth last year was close to 6%.

Mr Mitsotakis’s pitch to the nation was that he alone would be trusted to drive the Greek economy forward and consolidate recent growth. The Greeks seem to have responded positively – more than expected.

Giorgos Adamopoulos, 47, voted for New Democracy a few hundred meters from the Acropolis in Athens.

Greece deserves better politics, he told the BBC, but he supported Mr Mitsotakis because he was impressed by his record after four years as prime minister.

Four years ago, 41% of the vote would have been enough to secure a majority in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.

Now it needs more than 45% because the winning party won’t get a bonus of 50 seats in the first round, making reelection more likely.

Mr Mitsotakis will have his eye on the extra seats he could get if he wins a second term. An absolute majority would be in power for four years with a cabinet of his choice.

If he seeks coalition talks, SYRIZA’s socialist rival Basok is one of the big winners in the election, with 11.5% of the vote.

But that can be tricky since PASOC president Nikos Androlakis was the target of a wiretap scandal last year.

It led to the resignation of Mr Mitsotakis’ son-in-law, who served as the prime minister’s chief of staff and head of Greek intelligence.

Mr Androulakis believes the prime minister knew he was one of dozens targeted by illegal spyware.

Mr Mitsotakis comes from one of Greece’s most powerful political dynasties.

His father, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, was himself prime minister in the early 1990s; His sister Dora Bagoyiannis was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his son Kostas Bagoyiannis was the current mayor of Athens.

Eventually a train tragedy in February overshadowed the election campaign.

57 people died in the disaster, many of them students. The opposition highlighted the tragedy as a sign of a dysfunctional state after years of economic crisis and underinvestment.

Greeks have the right to vote from the age of 17, and a preliminary analysis of the poll by Greek TV suggested that 31.5% of voters aged 17-24 supported the ND, nearly three points more than Syriza.

First-time voters Grisanti and Vagelis, 18, voted for Syriza because their generation wanted “something new, something different”.

Apart from Pasok, the Communist KKE also increased their vote share.

But another casualty is former Syriza finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, whose MeRA25 party failed to qualify for parliament.

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