Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Greek election: Tsipras out, Mitsotakis in

  • Kyriakos Mitsotakis to become seventh New Democracy prime minister since the end of Greek military dictatorship in 1974 (Photo: epp.org)

Greece has ended its four-year romance with the far left in a victory for the centre-right New Democracy party in Sunday's (7 July) elections.

Its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a 51-year old ex-banker from a political dynasty, won some 40 percent of the vote, gaining him more than 150 seats out of 300 in parliament under a bonus-seat system.

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The Greek president will invite him to govern on Monday and his cabinet will be sworn in on Tuesday.

Mitsotakis won by promising to cut taxes, privatise services, and create jobs, which his left-wing rivals had failed to do.

He travelled the four corners of Greece holding town-hall debates over the past two years.

He poached far-right votes by railing against migrants.

He also poached them by attacking Greece's recent name deal with North Macedonia, which had angered nationalists by downplaying what they saw as irredentist claims to a Greek region of the same name.

His victory pushed the far-left Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras into second place with some 30 percent.

Three small left-wing parties also scraped past the three percent threshold to enter parliament, including the MeRA25 party of Tsipras' former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

No Golden Dawn

The right-wing and pro-Russian Greek Solution also scraped past, initial counts showed.

But the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party looked set not to make it.

The election took place on a hot day, with many young people going to the beach instead of voting, creating a turnout of some 56 percent, Greek media reported.

Tsipras had called the poll three months early after losing to New Democracy in the European Parliament election in May.

He phoned Mitsotakis on Sunday to congratulate him.

But Tsipras' finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, was less gracious.

"People believed in their [New Democracy's] program despite it being vague," he told the ERT broadcaster.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan also become the first foreign leader to congratulate the victor - despite being in the middle of a row on gas drilling with Greece's ally Cyprus.

Sunday's outcome marked the end of a mini-era in Greece, which began with a near bankruptcy in 2010 and involved three EU bailouts worth €289bn, amid fears that the euro itself might collapse.

EU-imposed austerity measures prompted riots and a swing to the left, which swept Tsipras to power in 2015.

Tsipras and Varoufakis at first challenged the creditors by calling a referendum which said 'No' to their terms.

But they softened their approach when the EU threatened to cut off the country's financial life-support and agreed to deep cuts in spending despite popular discontent.

Syriza "should be proud of our achievements", Tsakalotos also said on Sunday.

Its time in office saw unemployment fall from almost 30 percent to 18 percent and saw Greece return to bond markets.

But Greek unemployment is still the highest in the eurozone. Growth is sluggish. Foreign investors are wary and there are doubts the country can meet its budget targets.

The election means Tsakalotos is unlikely to represent Greece when eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels on Monday, with the Greek ambassador to the EU expected to take his place.

But Greece will be on the agenda, amid creditors' concern that 22 reforms which Tsipras had promised have not yet been put in place.

Greece formally exited its third bailout last August.

But it is still undergoing so-called post-bailout assessments in order to qualify for pay-outs from a €4.8bn aid package up till 2022.

The next assessment is due in autumn and Mitsotakis' cabinet, which is expected to contain newcomers, technocrats, and figures from the centre-left, will face its first test when it drafts the 2020 budget in the run-up to September.

Analysis

Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead

"Greece's recovery is not an event, it is a process," EU commissioner Pierre Moscovici says. Statistics, and differences of views between the country's creditors, show that the process will not be easy.

Hungary tops EU anti-fraud investigation list

In its annual report, the EU's anti-fraud agency said it concluded nine investigations into Hungary and found irregularities in seven cases. In total, the agency recommended the recovery of €371m EU-wide.

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