ATHENS, Greece — Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose conservative party has won a landslide election but without enough parliamentary seats to form a government, indicated late Sunday that he will seek a second election to consolidate his victory without the need for a coalition partner.
Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party was 20 percentage points ahead of its main rival, the left-wing Syriza party, with nearly 90% of the votes counted. But due to the current electoral system of proportional representation, his 40% vote share was still not enough to secure a majority of the 300 seats in parliament, meaning he would either have to seek a coalition partner from a smaller party, or head to a second election.
“From tomorrow, I will follow all constitutional procedures, but maintaining my firm view that the mathematics of proportional representation is akin to party horse-trading and results in a dead-end,” Mitsotakis said. “Without a doubt, the political earthquake that occurred today calls on us all to speed up the process for a definitive government solution so our country can have an experienced hand at its helm as soon as possible.”
A new vote, likely in late June or early July, will be held with a new electoral law which gives bonus seats to the winning party, making it easier for it to form a government on its own.
With nearly two thirds of the vote counted, the left-wing opposition party of former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was trailing with 20% of the vote, compared to 40% for Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party.
Sunday’s election was Greece’s first since its economy ceased being under strict supervision by international lenders who had provided bailout funds during the country’s nearly decade-long financial crisis. Tsipras, 48, served as prime minister during some of the most tumultuous years of the crisis, and has struggled to regain the wide support he enjoyed when he was swept to power in 2015 on a promise of reversing bailout-imposed austerity measures.
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ATHENS, Greece — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his conservative party led Greece’s election by a wide margin Sunday, according to partial official results. But a new electoral law means he will struggle to form a government without seeking coalition partners, and a second election is likely.
Partial results from 40% of polling stations counted showed Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party with 41% of the vote, with his main rival, Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party, trailing with 20%. If borne out by full results, Sunday’s showing would be a major disappointment for Syriza, and a better-than-expected performance for New Democracy.
Even with partial results, New Democracy was celebrating its strong showing.
“(The exit polls) show a clear victory for New Democracy and a clear renewal of the mandate to continue the major changes sought by Greek society,” said government spokesman Akis Skertsos.
Sunday’s election is Greece’s first since its economy ceased being under strict supervision by international lenders who had provided bailout funds during the country’s nearly decade-long financial crisis.
Tsipras, 48, served as prime minister during some of the most tumultuous years of the crisis, and has struggled to regain the wide support he enjoyed when he swept to power in 2015 on a promise of reversing bailout-imposed austerity measures.
Mitsotakis, a 55-year-old Harvard-educated former banking executive, won 2019 elections on a promise of business-oriented reforms and has vowed to continue tax cuts, boost investments and bolster middle class employment.
But the new electoral law of proportional representation makes it difficult for any party to win an outright majority in the 300-member parliament to form a government on its own, meaning Mitsotakis will likely have to seek a coalition partner.
However, New Democracy indicated it would prefer to seek a clear win in a second election and be able to govern on its own.
“We have said that we want to govern outright because that would ensure stability and the way forward. So we have the right to ask the Greek people for that in the next election,” Public Order Minister Takis Theodorikakos said on Skai television shortly after polls closed Sunday evening.
If a second election is held, likely in late June or early July, the law will change again, shifting to a system that rewards the leading party with bonus seats and making it easier for it to win a parliamentary majority.
Mitsotakis had been steadily ahead in opinion polls in the runup to the election. But his popularity took a hit following a Feb. 28 rail disaster that killed 57 people after an intercity passenger train was accidentally put on the same rail line as an oncoming freight train. It was later revealed that train stations were poorly staffed and safety infrastructure broken and outdated.
The government was also battered by a surveillance scandal in which journalists and prominent Greek politicians discovered spyware on their phones. The revelations deepened mistrust among the country’s political parties at a time when consensus may be badly needed.
Greece’s once-dominant Pasok party is likely to be at the center of any coalition talks. Overtaken by Syriza during Greece’s 2009-2018 financial crisis, exit polls showed the socialist party garnering around 35 seats in parliament. Its leader, Nikos Androulakis, 44, was at the center of the wiretapping scandal in which his phone was targeted for surveillance.
But Androulakis’ poor relationship with Mitsotakis, whom he accuses of covering up the wiretapping scandal, mean a deal with the conservatives would be difficult. His relationship with Tsipras is also poor, accusing him of trying to poach Pasok voters.
In power since 2019, Mitsotakis has delivered unexpectedly high growth, a steep drop in unemployment and a country on the brink of returning to investment grade on the global bond market for the first time since it lost market access in 2010, at the start of its financial crisis.
Debts to the International Monetary Fund were paid off early. European governments and the IMF pumped $300 billion into the Greek economy in emergency loans between 2010 and 2018 to prevent the eurozone member from bankruptcy. In return, they demanded punishing cost-cutting measures and reforms that saw the country’s economy shrink by a quarter.
Theodora Tongas, Demetris Nellas and Nicholas Paphitis contributed to this report.
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