New Democracy party of Kyriakos Mitsotakis secured 158 seats in the country’s 300-seat parliament.
Greece’s conservatives won big on Sunday’s parliamentary elections, securing an outright majority. Far-right parties also made gains, while the left struggled, giving Greece’s parliament its most rightward slant since the restoration of democracy in 1974.
The New Democracy party of Kyriakos Mitsotakis managed to widen its double-digit lead over its main rival, the left-wing Syriza party, and secured 158 seats in the country’s 300-seat parliament, under the new electoral system which awards the winning party 50 bonus seats.
“Our goals are high and must be high in a second term that can transform Greece with dynamic growth rates that will raise wages and reduce inequalities,” Mitsotakis said in his first message from his party’s headquarters.
“People gave us a safe majority. The major reforms will therefore proceed with speed as this is the choice of the Greek people and I will honor it in full.”
Sunday’s elections were the second held in the country in five weeks, after New Democracy came first on May 21 but fell short of an outright majority.
New Democracy got 40.5 percent of the vote on Sunday, while Syriza was lagging with only 17.8 percent and 47 seats, according to official results. The socialist PASOK party had 11.9 percent and 32 seats, and the communists KKE had 7.6 percent and 20 seats. The participation rate was at 52.7 percent, the Interior Ministry reported.
Four fringe parties — mainly from the far-right — also managed to top the 3 percent threshold to make it into parliament.
Last-minute contender the Spartans party — which recently added a jailed MP from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, Ilias Kasidiaris, to its list of backers — saw its support rise to 4.7 percent within days and secured 13 seats in parliament. The conservative government had passed an amendment aiming to ban him from parliament.
New Democracy’s dominance is another sign of how Southern European countries are moving to the right, after a decades-long financial crisis in the eurozone that led the rise of left-wing parties.
Ultra-nationalist, pro-Russian Greek Solution got 4.5 percent and 12 seats, while anti-abortion, religious party Niki got 3.7 percent and 10 MPs. To the left, Course of Freedom, led by former member of Syriza Zoi Konstantopoulou, got 3.1 percent and 8 seats.
The far right has performed well in recent elections in Finland and Spain, and is polling particularly well in Germany. Its savvier elements — like Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni — are beginning to assert themselves at the European level.
But the main story of Sunday’s election was New Democracy’s dominance, which is another sign of how Southern European countries are moving to the right, after a decades-long financial crisis in the eurozone that led to the rise of left-wing parties.
“This is a clear victory for Kyriakos Mitsotakis, for [New Democracy] and for the EPP,” said Thanasis Bakolas, the center-right European People’s Party secretary general.
“In politics, what you stand for matters. This is what we see in Greece, also what we saw earlier this year in national elections in Finland and regional elections in Spain. And this is precisely what we will see again in upcoming parliamentary elections in Spain in July and Poland in October. EPP parties are dominating the centre, while the centre-left is barricaded to its fringes.”
The election outcome is considered market-friendly and puts Greece firmly on track to regain an investment-grade rating towards the end of the year, analysts say.
Mitsotakis has promised that his first two bills will include a further reform of the public administration and the economy. He has also promised overhauls in the judicial, health and education sectors and expressed his intention to create a family ministry to help address Greece’s shrinking, and ageing, population.
“The resounding victory will provide ND with a comfortable majority, putting Mitsotakis in a good position to push through investor-friendly reforms,” said Wolfango Piccoli, co-founder of risk analysis company Teneo.
But the fringe parties will have a platform to broadcast their populist message and attempt to disrupt the government’s agenda, exploiting politically toxic issues like migration, the relationship with Turkey, abortion, the role of religion in education, Russia sanctions, he added.
“It remains to be seen how Mitsotakis — often perceived to be more vulnerable to attacks from the far-right given his distinct liberal, center-right orientation — will manage to deal with the possible challenge posed by far-right opposition lawmakers.”
Main opposition Syriza performed very poorly, raising questions about whether its status as the main opposition could now be challenged by Pasok party. It also means that conservatives could govern without particular scrutiny.
“Although the danger of collapse was avoided and Syriza remains the official opposition, we have suffered a serious electoral defeat,” the party’s leader Alexis Tsipras said, setting the European elections next year as a goal for the party’s reimposition and adding that he will put his leadership to the judgment of the party members.