Conservatives sweep Greek vote, oust leftist Syriza

Leader of conservative New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (C) shakes hands with supporters after the victory of his party of the Greek general elections, at the headquarter's party, in Athens, Greece, 07 Jyly 2019. [EPA-EFE/YANNIS KOLESIDIS]

The conservative New Democracy party triumphed in the Greek national elections on Sunday (7 July), ousting leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras from government.

The center-right New Democracy party (ND), affiliated with the European People’s Party (EPP), won the snap elections, scoring 39.8% of the votes, followed by the leftist Syriza party with 31.5%, the socialists’ KINAL (8%) and the communist party (5.3%).

Greek Solution, a nationalist pro-Russia and anti-migration party, gained 10 seats and 3.7% of the vote while Diem25 of former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, got 9 seats in the next parliament.

The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which entered the Greek parliament for the first time in 2012, did not manage to pass the 3% threshold, something that was hailed by the country’s democratic political forces.

According to the official results, ND will be able to form a one-party government, as it will have 158 seats in the 300-member Greek House while Syriza got 86 seats and the socialist KINAL 22.

Although Tsipras, who came to power in 2015, brought the country out of austerity-driven bailouts, Greek voters punished his high-taxation policies as well as the lack security in the center of Athens.

Analysts suggest that the North Macedonia name change deal, known as the Prespa Agreement, which ended a 27-year dispute over the country’s name, also negatively affected Syriza, especially in the northern part of Greece.

ND’s campaign was focused on a pro-business program prioritising economic growth and new jobs by speeding up investments.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis vowed to bring unity among Greeks and called on young people who left the country during the crisis to come back.

“We will change the country you left,” Mitsotakis said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the first leader to congratulate Mitsotakis, while EPP chief Joseph Daul said the result was a “clear message away from populism”.

“We are the biggest centre-right party within the EPP and we will rule the country based on our common European values,” lawmaker Giorgos Koumoutsakos said.

Yannis Smyrlis, International Relations Secretary of ND, told EURACTIV Greece: “Greek people gave a clear mandate to New Democracy and Kyriakos Mitsotakis to form a majority government and lead the country to a new day of growth, investments, and opportunity for all Greeks”.

Official government posts have not been announced yet. However, the Greek press reported that it’s highly likely that Margaritis Schinas, the current Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission, will be the next Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Tsipras becomes main opposition leader 

Mitsotakis takes over a country in much better shape than four years ago, Tsipras said, vowing to form a coalition of “progressive” political forces.

“We lost just 4% in the last 4 years of governance,” Tsipras said, adding that the next objective is to transform Syriza into a great progressive democratic party.

Syriza immediately acknowledged ND’s clear victory but said it wasn’t “strategically defeated”.

With over 31% of the vote, Syriza became the main opposition party in Greece and it also has a leading role among progressive political forces in Europe, said Dimitris Papadimoulis, a Syriza MEP and vice-president of the European Parliament.

Asked by EURACTIV whether Tsipras’s authority will be questioned, he replied: “Not only Tsipras won’t be questioned, he is super powerful”.

“Those who aimed at Syriza’s strategic defeat actually failed,” he said.

For MEP Stelios Kouloglou, Syriza lost the elections for two reasons. First, because it was forced to implement austerity policies and second, because of the Prespa Agreement.

“Although it was the best possible deal we could get, ND decided to back the nationalist opposition,” Kouloglou said.

Kouloglou added that Mitsotakis has no specific program and that the cost of his promises at the economy level has not been accurately calculated.

Varoufakis, who took part in Alexis Tsipras’s first government in 2015, said Greek citizens ousted another “bailout government” and vowed to fight against ND, which according to him, will work for the country’s oligarchs.

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