Greece’s centre-right wins landslide election, but will need new votes to form government

Athens, Greece — This was the most exciting of all the victories. Despite handing the opposition its most crushing defeat in half a century, Greece’s centre-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to call a second national election within weeks on Monday, as he lacks the majority in parliament to govern alone.

Counting 99.55% of the votes early Monday, Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party won 40.79%, which is double the 20.07% of the main left-wing opposition, Syriza. Socialist Pasok came third with 11.46%.

The gap far exceeded pollsters’ predictions and was the largest since 1974, when Greece held its first democratic elections after the fall of a seven-year military dictatorship.

However, the one-time proportional representation system in effect on Sunday means that the ND will only get 146 of the 300 members of the parliament, five short of the governing majority. New elections due in late June or early July will revert to the previous system, which gives the first party a maximum of 50 seats. This would give Mitsotakis a comfortable majority in the second term.

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Late Monday, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou must hand Mitsotakis his mandate to try to form a coalition government – which he is expected to hand back.

Hours after voting ended on Sunday, the 55-year-old prime minister said he would “follow all constitutional procedures” but made it clear he would not take part in coalition talks.

“Undoubtedly, today’s political earthquake calls us all to speed up the process of a final government solution so that our country can be led by experienced hands as soon as possible,” he said.

Mitsotakis has long suggested that he would not seek a coalition partner regardless of the election outcome, instead advocating the stabilizing effect of strong, undivided governance.

If Mitsotakis returns the mandate, it will go to Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, and then to Nikos Androulakis, the leader of Pasok – neither of whom has a realistic chance of success. Each of them will have up to three days to try to form a coalition. When all options are exhausted, a senior judge is appointed as interim prime minister and new elections are called.

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Tsipras, 48, called Mitsotakis on Sunday evening to congratulate him.

“The result is exceptionally negative for Syriza,” he said in the first statements. “Battles have winners and losers.”

Tsipras, who was prime minister from 2015 to 2019, said his party would gather to examine the results and how they came about. “However, the election cycle is not over yet,” he said. “You don’t have the luxury of time. We need to make all the necessary changes immediately so that we can fight the next decisive and final election battle on the best possible terms.”

Mitsotakis, a Harvard-educated former banking executive, came to power in 2019 on a promise of pro-business reforms, vowing to continue cutting taxes, boosting investment and boosting middle-class employment.

He is credited with successfully handling the pandemic and two crises in neighboring Turkey while overseeing high growth and job creation after the 2009-2018 Greek financial crisis, but a wiretapping scandal and a rail disaster have dented his ratings.

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