April 14, 2024

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Greek elections: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative party leads by a wide margin

Greek elections: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative party leads by a wide margin

ATHENS, GREECE (AP) – Official results from more than 60% of polling stations counted in the Greek elections show Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ ruling conservatives overwhelmingly ahead of the left-wing opposition party.

However, the new electoral law under which the vote took place means that Mitsotakis will struggle to form a government without looking for a coalition partner.

With nearly two-thirds of the votes 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 Democratic Party.

Sunday’s election is Greece’s first since its economy ceased to be strictly supervised by international lenders who provided bailout money during the country’s nearly decade-long financial crisis. Tsipras, 48, served as prime minister through some of the most turbulent years of the crisis and has struggled to regain the broad support he enjoyed when he came to power in 2015 on the promise of reversing the austerity measures imposed by the bailout.

This is an urgent news update. The previous AP story follows below.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his conservative party led Greece’s elections by a wide margin Sunday, according to partial official results. But the new electoral law means he will struggle to form a government without seeking coalition partners, and a second election is likely.

Partial results from the 40% of polling stations counted showed Mitsotakis’ New Democratic Party taking 41% of the vote, while its main rival Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party came after 20%. If proven by the full results, Sunday’s showing will be a huge disappointment for Syriza, and a better-than-expected performance for New Democracy.

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Even with the partial results, New Democracy was celebrating its strong showing.

Government spokesman Akis Skirtsos said: “(opinion polls) show a clear victory for the new democracy and a clear renewal of the mandate to continue the major changes sought by Greek society.”

Sunday’s election is Greece’s first since its economy ceased to be strictly supervised by international lenders who provided bailout money during the country’s nearly decade-long financial crisis. Tsipras, 48, served as prime minister through some of the most turbulent years of the crisis and has struggled to regain the broad support he enjoyed when he came to power in 2015 on the promise of reversing the austerity measures imposed by the bailout.

Mitsotakis, the 55-year-old former Harvard executive, won the 2019 election promising business-oriented reforms and a pledge to pursue tax cuts, boost investment and support middle-class employment.

But the new proportional representation electoral law makes it harder for any party to win an outright majority in the 300-member parliament to form a government on its own, meaning Mitsotakis is likely to seek a coalition partner.

However, New Democracy has indicated that it would prefer to seek a clear victory in a second election and be able to govern on its own.

We have said that we want to rule outright because that will ensure stability going forward. Therefore, we have the right to ask the Greek people for this in the upcoming elections,” Public Order Minister Takis Theodorikakos said on Sky TV shortly after the polls closed on Sunday evening.

If a second election is held, most likely in late June or early July, the law will change again, morphing into a system that rewards the main party with additional seats and makes it easier for it to win a parliamentary majority.

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Mitsotakis had been steadily leading in opinion polls in the run-up to the election. But his popularity took a major blow in the aftermath of the February 28 rail disaster that claimed 57 lives after an intercity passenger train was accidentally put on the same rail line as an oncoming freight train. It is later revealed that the train stations are understaffed and the safety infrastructure is broken and outdated.

The government was also hit by a surveillance scandal in which prominent Greek journalists and politicians discovered spyware on their phones. The revelations deepened mistrust between the country’s political parties at a time when consensus may be desperately needed.

The once-dominant PASOK party is likely to be at the center of any coalition talks. Opinion polls, which were overtaken by Syriza during Greece’s 2009-2018 financial crisis, showed the Socialist Party with about 35 seats in parliament. Its leader, Nikos Androulakis, 44, was at the center of a wiretapping scandal in which his phone was targeted for surveillance.

But Androulakis’ poor relationship with Mitsotakis, whom he accuses of covering up a wiretapping scandal, means a deal with the conservatives will be difficult. He also has a bad relationship with Tsipras, who accuses him of trying to poach PASOK voters.

In power since 2019, Mitsotakis has delivered unexpectedly high growth, a sharp drop in unemployment, and a country about to return to investment grade in the global bond market for the first time since losing access to the markets in 2010, at the start of its cycle. financial crisis.

Debt to the International Monetary Fund was paid early. European governments and the International Monetary Fund pumped 280 billion euros ($300 billion) in emergency loans to the Greek economy between 2010 and 2018 to prevent the eurozone member from going bankrupt. In exchange, they demanded that cost-cutting measures and reforms that have shrunk the country’s economy be punished by a quarter.

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Theodora Tongas, Dimitris Nilas and Nicholas Pavetis contributed to this report.