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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Thanassis Stavrakis/PA Images New Democracy conservative party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Changing of the guard

After five years in power, Greece's bailout-era Syriza government is dumped from power

Exit polls show Alexis Tsipras’ party has been ousted by the conservative opposition.

LAST UPDATE | Jul 7th 2019, 6:17 PM

GREECE’S CONSERVATIVE NEW Democracy party has defeated Greek leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in today’s general election, exit polls showed.

A combined survey by Greece’s main TV stations showed New Democracy leading Tsipras’s Syriza party by an average of 40% to 28.5%.

If these results are confirmed, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a 51-year-old Harvard graduate and former McKinsey consultant, will have a majority of up to 167 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament.

Tsipras’s party will have up to 82 seats, the polls showed.

The final number will depend on how smaller parties fare. They need at least 3% of the vote to enter parliament.

New arrivals fighting to secure representation are Greek Solution, a nationalist party formed by TV salesman Kyriakos Velopoulos, and MeRA25, an anti-austerity party formed by maverick economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

According to the exit polls, Varoufakis’s party could elect up to 14 lawmakers.

Greek Solution could end up with 13 deputies, as many as neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, whose ratings have sharply dropped in the midst of a criminal trial with several of its top members facing charges.

New Democracy was last in power in 2014, in coalition with the Greek socialists.

Mitsotakis is a scion of one of Greece’s top political families. He is the son of former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, one of the country’s longest-serving parliamentarians.

His sister is former minister Dora Bakoyannis, Athens’s first female mayor. And new Athens mayor Costas Bakoyannis, elected in May, is his nephew.

After of voting today, Mitsotakis said: “Today is a big celebration of democracy. Greek women and men hold the fate of this land in their hands.”

Today’s election is Greece’s third in as many months, and the first held in midsummer since 1928.

In May, New Democracy beat Syriza by nearly 9.5 points in European parliament elections. A week later, it completed a near-sweep of Greek regions in local elections.

Tsipras called the snap election in June after losing these votes.

The win is the first Greece’s post-bailout era and will see Tsipras’s Syriza party leave after after nearly five years in power.

Cating his ballot today, Tsipras had called for supporters to mobilise to turnaround polling that looked bleak for the party. 

“Today we are fighting this battle from the first to the last minute. With optimism and determination. The ballots are empty and all possibilities are open,” he tweeted.

After voting in Kypseli, near the centre of Athens, with his supporters cheering, the premier called on young people “not to leave this crucial decision for their lives in the hands of others”.

GREECE-ATHENS-PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS-VOTE Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras casts his vote at a polling station in Athens. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

Some members of a small far-left party protested outside the polling station were Mitsotakis voted, but their shouts were drowned out by New Democracy supporters calling their leader the new prime minister.

“I hope that from tomorrow we will be able to breathe with relief. To take a deep breath. If Mitsotakis does what he promises,” Athinodoros, a 48-year-old self-employed worker voting in Athens told AFP.

euronews (in English) / YouTube

Tsipras has accused Mitsotakis — who was part of a 2012-2014 crisis government — of “disastrous” mismanagement that brought hundreds of thousands of job losses and business failures.

Greece’s next PM?

The man set to be Greece’s next prime minister is a 51-year-old Harvard graduate and former McKinsey consultant with controversial civil service job cuts on his resume.

Mitsotakis, who took over New Democracy three years ago, has pledged to create “better” jobs through growth, foreign investment and tax cuts and to “steamroll” obstacles to business.

Tsipras, on the other hand, touts his party’s track record in reducing unemployment and raising the minimum wage for the first time since 2012.

His government also rolled out a batch of last-minute tax cuts in May.

But Tsipras has been widely criticised for campaigning as an anti-austerity crusader before eventually accepting a third EU bailout.

Greece Election AP / PA Images Greek opposition New Democracy conservative party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis. AP / PA Images / PA Images

Christos Maravlis, who cast his ballot for the once-radical leftists in 2015, says many voters will be seeking to “punish Syriza for betraying the Greek people” with false promises.

Voting in the heat

The vote is Greece’s third poll in as many months, and the country’s first mid-summer general election since 1928 is unlikely to set participation records.

In May, fewer than 59% of registered voters cast ballots for European Parliament polls and the first round of local and regional elections. Participation fell below 42% for the second round a week later.

With temperatures forecast to reach 39 degrees Celsius, all parties are concerned about the impact the heat will have on turnout.

The front page of the Proto Thema newspaper on Saturday showed a cartoon of a man catching some summer sun on an inflatable mattress.

“Enjoy your vacations and let others decide if you will be able to go on vacation again,” the front page joked.

PastedImage-89021 Facebook Friday's Proto Thema front page. Facebook

© – AFP 2019

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