Greece PM's party ahead in election

AFP , Sunday 21 May 2023

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' conservative party is on course to win Sunday's election, exit polls show, but could be forced to call a new ballot in a month's time as it fell short of an outright majority to rule alone.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Greece s Prime Minister and leader of New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis, center, arrives at the headquarters of his party in Athens, Greece, Sunday, May 21, 2023. AFP


His New Democracy is projected to have obtained 36 to 40 percent of the votes -- well ahead of leftist challenger Alexis Tsipras' Syriza party, which is expected to have secured 25 to 29 percent of the ballot.

If the result is confirmed, Mitsotakis would have to either enter into tough negotiations from Monday with his rivals to seek a coalition, or he could opt to head to a new election, likely in early July.

Early reactions from his party's bigwigs suggest that a new election is well on the cards.

Takis Theodorikakos, a minister and a senior official from Mitsotakis' party, told private TV station Skai that the exit poll's result suggest that the conservatives could garner enough in a second election "to continue the reforms as an autonomous government".

Another New Democracy minister Theodoros Skylakakis meanwhile said the "other parties' reactions show that we will be led to a second election."

Senior Syriza official Dimitris Papadimoulis, a European Parliament vice-president, meanwhile told state TV ERT that if confirmed, the result would be "significantly far" from the party's goals and would mark a failure to rally opposition to the government.


Mitsotakis, a Harvard graduate and former McKinsey consultant, had entered into the elections as the favorite, with Greece currently enjoying fairly robust economic health.

Unemployment and inflation have fallen and growth this year is projected to reach twice that of the European Union's -- a far cry from the throes of a crippling debt crisis a decade ago.

With a post-Covid tourism revival lifting the country's growth to 5.9 percent in 2022, Mitsotakis has campaigned on a pledge to build on the economic gains.

But fears over stagnating wages and rising costs remain a key concern for voters -- something that his rival Tsipras had sought to exploit.

The result meant however that Tsipras is unlikely to succeed in making his comeback after a first mandate in 2015 to 2019, during which he led rocky negotiations with creditors that nearly crashed Greece out of the euro.

Rather, it could put the focus on the socialist party Pasok-Kinal, led by 44-year-old Nikos Androulakis.

Exit polls have the potential kingmaker between 9.5 and 12.5 percent.

Androulakis had been seen early on as a potential coalition partner for Mitsotakis but things went sour when he discovered he had been under state surveillance.

The wiretap scandal, which erupted last year, forced the resignation of the head of the intelligence service and a nephew of Mitsotakis, who was a top aide in his office.

In the run-up to the vote, Androulakis had firmly ruled out forming a partnership with Mitsotakis' conservatives.

While the socialist party is closer policy-wise to Syriza, Androulakis had in March said he would only back a coalition if neither Tsipras or Mitsotakis became prime minister.

'We have a future'

Welcoming the results, retiree Glykeria Tzima, 62, said: "Democracy won today -- not only New Democracy but democracy as a whole.

"We want to see a continuation of what was created in the last four years and leave the toxicity behind us. We, us Greeks, went through tough times and we saw that with this government and this prime minister, we have a future."

But Georgios Koulouris, 60, a miner living in Australia who returned to vote, said deep challenges and inequality plague the country.

"There is a part of the people who literally live on small change," he said, adding that Greece was suffering from a brain drain because of stagnating salaries and exploding rents.

Meanwhile, five people were arrested near Karditsa, central Greece, on suspicion of vote fraud after being found illegally in possession of ballots and over 6,000 euros ($6,490) in cash, police said Sunday.

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