Greek elections: Conservatives win power from Syriza


Conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis is to become the next Greek prime minister after voters gave his New Democracy party a parliamentary majority on Sunday.

It was the sixth time in just a decade — and the first time since the country successfully exited its bailout programme in August 2018 — that Greeks went to the polls to elect a new government.

The contest, called on May 26 by Tsipras after his SYRIZA party’s disastrous result in the European as well as local and regional elections, had largely been seen as a battle for the middle-class which was severely impacted by austerity measures following the country’s near-bankruptcy and assistance from international creditors.

Prime Minister-elect Mitsotakis had focused his campaign on the economy and security.

Country swings to the right
With 39.84% of the vote (with 98% of ballots counted), New Democracy secured 158 of the 300-seat parliament — an absolute majority.

In his victory speech delivered at 2100 CET (2200 local time), Mitsotakis thanked the electorate for the “strong mandate” which he said would help him “change Greece”.

He pledged to work hard to ensure every Greek citizen, particularly the young who were disproportionately impacted by the financial crisis and its aftermath, would be given the opportunity to “fulfil their potential.”

He also reiterated that his government will reduce tax, increase wages, boost investment and employment and added that he will make Greece’s voice stronger on the European stage.

He will be sworn in on Monday at 1200 CET. His cabinet should be announced later in the day and be sworn in on Tuesday.

The electoral drumming which started on May 26 continued on Sunday for SYRIZA. The left-wing party finished second with 31.54% of the vote.

“Today, with our head held high we accept the people’s verdict. To bring Greece to where it is today we had to take difficult decisions (with) a heavy political cost,” Tsipras said during his concession speech.

The outgoing Prime Minister said he would hand the country to Mitsotakis in a better state than when he had inherited it with “restored credibility” and “positive growth rates.”

The party will command 86 seats in parliament and thus become the country’s main opposition party, a statute they will use to “defend the interests of the people,” Tsipras said.

REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Greek Prime Minister and leader of leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras after delivering a speech at Zappeion Hall, after the general election in Athens, Greece, July 7, 2019.REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Far-right not weakened
The ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party — which first entered the Hellenic parliament in 2010 — failed to secure the 3% of the national vote necessary to gain seats. In the last parliamentary election in September 2015, it had commandeered 18 seats.

The party — which is still on trial for the murder of musician Pavlos Fyssas and migrant worker Sahzat Lukman and attacks on migrants — will, however, be represented at the Europan parliament as it secured two seats in May.

But the far-right populist party, Greek Solution, has made it into parliament with 3.7% of the vote. Its leader, Kyriakos Velopoulos, was one of the party’s two members to be elected an MEP in May. Velopoulos, a televangelist, advocating for the death penalty and closed borders, drew ridicule online for marketing letters he said were written by Jesus Christ.

The reactions
EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker — whose term expires on November 1 — said in a letter to Mitsotakis that “one of the proudest achievements” of the Commission he presided over for the past five years “has been to help Greece turn the page of the crisis and create a future for itself.”

He added: “I have full confidence in your personal capacity and in the capacity of the Greek people to open a new, brighter chapter in the history of your country.”

Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici also congratulated Mitsotakis on Twitter and wished him luck in “pursuing the job of getting the Greek economy back on its feet.”

He also thanked Tsipras, who he said, “has done a lot for his country and for Europe.”

Greece’s neighbour, Turkey, also congratulated Mitsotakis with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declaring himself “confident that Turkish-Greek friendship and bilateral relations will further strengthen during his (Mitsotakis) leadership.”