ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose Conservative party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s elections but lacks seats in parliament for an outright victory, has indicated he is seeking a second election to win without to consolidate a coalition partner.
Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party was a full 20 percentage points ahead of its main rival, the left-wing Syriza party, near complete results showed. But a new proportional voting system meant his 40% share of the vote was still not enough to secure a majority of the 300 seats in Parliament. In order to form a government, he would either have to find a coalition partner from a smaller party or stand for a second election.
The Prime Minister said he would “follow all constitutional procedures” but maintained his view that the current electoral system, which has created the need for a coalition, amounts to “horse-trading with the parties”.
“The political earthquake that happened today undoubtedly urges all of us to accelerate the process towards a final governmental solution so that our country can have an experienced hand at the helm as soon as possible.”
Cheering New Democracy supporters gathered outside the party headquarters in Athens, cheering and waving party flags.
A second election, expected to be held in late June or early July, would be held under a new electoral law that would give the winning party bonus seats, making it easier for them to form a government themselves.
Sunday’s elections were the first in Greece since the country’s economy was no longer under the close scrutiny of international lenders who had provided bailouts during the country’s nearly decade-long financial crisis.
Syriza boss Alexis Tsipras, 48, was prime minister during some of the most turbulent years of the crisis and struggled to regain the broad support he enjoyed when he came to power in 2015 on promises to reverse austerity measures imposed by bailouts reached .
He called Mitsotakis on Sunday night to congratulate him on his win.
“The result is extremely negative for Syriza,” Tsipras said in initial statements after his party’s dramatic defeat became clear. “Fights have winners and losers.”
Tsipras said his party will meet to review the results and how they came about. “However, the election cycle is not over yet,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of time. We must immediately implement all the necessary changes so that we can contest the next crucial and final election campaign in the best possible conditions.”
As the wide rift between the first two parties became clear, Syriza supporters expressed their dismay.
“I am very sorry about the terrible condition of these people (who voted for New Democracy),” said Syriza supporter Georgi Koulouri, standing near a Syriza campaign kiosk in central Athens. “People who understand their position – the poverty and misery they have fallen into – and still vote for them deserve what they get.”
Mitsotakis, a 55-year-old Harvard-educated former bank executive, won the 2019 election on a promise of pro-business reforms, promising to continue tax cuts, boost investment and boost middle-class employment.
A steady lead he had enjoyed in opinion polls leading up to the election slipped after one February 28: Railway disaster 57 people lost their lives. Authorities said an intercity passenger train accidentally ran onto the same rail track as an oncoming freight train. Later it turned out that the stations were poorly staffed and the security infrastructure was defective and outdated.
The government was also rocked by a surveillance scandal in which journalists and prominent Greek politicians discovered spyware on their phones. The revelations increased distrust among the country’s political parties.
Syriza’s campaign focused heavily on the wiretapping scandal and the train wreck.
Greece’s once-dominant Pasok party, overtaken by Syriza during Greece’s 2009-2018 financial crisis, also did well in Sunday’s vote, garnering just over 11%. Their leader, Nikos Androulakis, 44, was at the center of the wiretapping scandal in which his phone was supposed to be tapped.
Androulakis’ poor relationship with Mitsotakis, whom he accuses of covering up the wiretapping scandal, means a possible coalition deal with the Conservatives would be difficult. His relationship with Tsipras is also bad after he accused him of poaching Pasok voters.
Since taking office in 2019, Mitsotakis has delivered better-than-expected growth, a sharp drop in unemployment and a country that is poised to return to investment grade in the global bond market for the first time since losing market access in 2010. area to return the financial crisis.
Debts to the International Monetary Fund were repaid early. European governments and the IMF pumped 280 billion euros ($300 billion) into the Greek economy in the form of emergency loans between 2010 and 2018 to avert the euro-member’s bankruptcy. In return, they demanded punitive austerity measures and reforms that have shrunk the country’s economy by a quarter.
Theodora Tongas, Demetris Nellas, and Nicholas Paphitis contributed to this report.