Will Kyriakos Mitsotakis with his centre-right party Nea Dimokratia (ND) manage to defend the post of prime minister, or will Alexis Tsipras of the left-wing Syriza party take over government in Greece again? Yesterday’s ballot should clarify this question. But there was no clear result. Although the ND remains the strongest party, it does not have a majority in parliament due to the new electoral law passed under Tsipras. According to the first partial results, the ND comes to around 41 percent, Syriza only around 20.
In 2019 Mitsotakis had won in another system. In principle, this allocated the seats in the 300-strong, one-chamber parliament proportionally, but also gave the first-placed party 50 bonus seats. This time there was a purely proportional system with a three percent hurdle.
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High cost of living
Both leading parties were socially sensitive in the election campaign. A minimum wage increase initiated by Mitsotakis has only been in effect since the beginning of April. For years, people in Greece have suffered from the fact that salaries have only risen very slowly compared to the cost of living. According to Eurostat, two years ago 36 percent of Greeks had unpaid bills – the highest figure in the EU. Housing costs are also very high compared to salaries in Europe.
Mitsotakis warned of a stalemate at a time of international uncertainty. The 55-year-old hoped for a tailwind through his tax cut policy, a revival of tourism after the corona pandemic and continuous growth of 5.9 percent most recently in 2022. However, the positive numbers hide problems with low salaries and high living costs a migration of young people abroad and the ongoing consequences of the austerity policy imposed by the European Union during the financial and debt crisis. Tsipras led the negotiations with the EU in 2015.
wiretapping scandal and train crash
During the election campaign, Tsipras promised, among other things, to fight inflation, for which he blames “cartels” in the country. “Greece has Bulgarian wages and British prices,” he said. He also wants to restore confidence in the state. The wiretapping scandal involving the Greek secret service, in the course of which the Mitsotakis government is accused of wiretapping members of the government, opposition MPs, journalists, businessmen and army chiefs, has left its mark on the population. The serious train accident in February also keeps people busy.
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Last but not least, the high number of refugees is an issue. During a recent visit to the island of Lesbos, Mitsotakis praised his own “tough but fair” migration policy. At the same time, the Greek authorities are repeatedly accused of illegal rejections (pushbacks) of asylum seekers.
New elections already in July?
The socialist Pasok Kinal Party, founded by former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, could tip the scales and, according to initial forecasts, will get 9.5 to 12.5 percent. She is traded as a coalition partner for both Mitsotakis and Tsipras. If neither of the two can reach an agreement on a coalition government within ten days – which observers say is likely – another round of voting is to be held in early July. With this vote, a new electoral law introduced by Mitsotakis would then take effect, which would give the election winner additional seats.