Sunday, June 23 2024

Greeks go to the polls today - What is most likely to happen

greece elections 2023
Polls have opened in Greece’s parliamentary election and the two main contenders in today’s vote are conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, 55, a Harvard-educated former banking executive, and 48-year-old Alexis Tsipras, who heads the left-wing Syriza party and served as prime minister during some of the financial crisis’ most turbulent years.
Although Mitsotakis has been steadily ahead in opinion polls, a newly introduced electoral system of proportional representation makes it unlikely that whoever wins the election will be able to garner enough seats in Greece’s 300-member parliament to form a government without seeking coalition partners.
The winner of Sunday’s election will have three days to negotiate a coalition with one or more other parties. If that fails, the mandate to form a government is then given to the second party. But deep divisions between the two main parties and four smaller ones expected to enter parliament mean a coalition will be hard to come by, making a second election likely on 2 July.
The second election would be held under a new electoral law which makes it easier for a winning party to form a government by giving it a bonus of up to 50 seats in parliament.
A total of 32 parties are vying for votes, although opinion polls have indicated only six have a realistic chance of meeting the three per cent threshold to gain seats in parliament.
Greece’s once-dominant socialist Pasok party is likely to be at the centre of any coalition talks. Overtaken by Syriza during Greece’s 2009-2018 financial crisis, the party has been polling at around 10%. Its leader, Nikos Androulakis, 44, was at the centre of a wiretapping scandal in which his phone was targeted for surveillance.
Polling at around 10 per cent, Pasok would be vital in any coalition deal, but Androulakis’ poor relationship with Mitsotakis, who he accuses of covering up the wiretapping scandal, means a deal with the conservatives is unlikely. His relationship with Tsipras is also poor, accusing him of trying to poach Pasok voters.
Why Greece’s Election Could End Up With No Winner
General election is unlikely to produce a clear winner, with a second vote expected by July if the country's fractious political parties fail to agree to a coalition.
While opinion polls have placed the ruling conservative New Democracy party ahead, a change to the country's electoral system means it is likely to fall short of an absolute majority.
New Democracy, headed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is polling between 31-38%, followed by opposition leftist Syriza, trailing by 4-7 points. Pollsters say a party would need more than 45 percent to win outright.
A cost of living crisis has taken centre stage in the campaign, with parties trying to woo voters with pledges to increase the minimum wage and create jobs. Spiralling prices have had a profound impact on Greeks, whose living standards plunged during a decade-long debt crisis.
"We are business owners, we want (the winner) to help us with our business, with our financial situation, so we can survive," said shopkeeper Vicky, 69, after casting her vote.
After Greece almost crashed out of the euro at the peak of its debt crisis in 2015, Mitsotakis, elected in 2019, has portrayed himself as a safe pair of hands in his campaign to win the votes of just under 10 million Greeks.
"Today we vote for the future," Mitsotakis said after voting. "Today the country's government responsibility has been passed on to you, the people, but I'm certain that tomorrow an even better day will dawn for our country."
His administration, however, took the brunt of public outrage over a Feb. 28 rail crash killing 57 people, and a wiretapping scandal targeting politicians.
"Greeks hold in their hands the ability to do the will of the majority for the country to change course.... to open the way for a progressive coalition government," said Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras.
If they all fail, Sakellaropoulou will appoint a caretaker government to prepare new elections roughly a month later.
"Today's result is a referendum either for political stability, or the preamble of a rudderless government, the daily Proto Thema said in a front-page editorial.
However, a second election on July 2 seems likely. It would be held under a new electoral law giving the winner a boost of up to 50 of Parliament’s 300 seats, which the current system doesn’t.
With the economy rebounding after the 2009-2018 financial crisis, military tensions with neighboring Turkey — which nearly boiled over in 2020 — and the cost of living in Greece driving much of the population to poverty, potential coalition deals are on the table.
[Euronews, AP, Reuters]