On May 21, the Greek legislative elections took place. The party led by Kyriákos Mitsotákis, New Democracy (Νέας Δημοκρατίας), emerged as the frontrunner, securing 40.8% of the total vote. In contrast, the left-wing Syriza party received 20.1%, while the Socialist Pasok party garnered 11.7% and the Communists KKE secured 7.1%. Despite New Democracy being in the lead, the party fell short of obtaining the required majority of 45% of the votes. As a result, they claimed 146 seats in Parliament, which is five seats below the threshold of 151 needed for a parliamentary majority.
The New Democracy party has the option to explore a potential coalition with the second and third-ranking parties. If this attempt proves unsuccessful, an interim government will be established, and subsequently, a second round of voting will take place. In this subsequent election, distinct regulations will be enforced, requiring the winning party to secure just 37% of the total votes.
What are some of the themes that dominated the elections?
The Greek legislative elections revolved around critical issues, namely a wiretapping scandal, the pressing cost-of-living crisis, and the nation’s most devastating train crash in history.
When it comes to the cost of living, New Democracy’s campaign focused on highlighting the country’s remarkable economic recovery since it first assumed power in 2019. In fact, Mitsotákis presented and described himself as a leader capable of fostering economic growth. During an interview with CNN, he explained that “The evidence is clear: in 2019, we lagged behind in terms of growth, but now we stand as one of the top-performing economies in the eurozone.”
However, the campaign led by Mitsotákis faced intense scrutiny following startling revelations made by the leader of the opposition party, PASOK. It came to light that his phone had been subjected to surveillance by Greece’s intelligence service during his tenure as a member of the European Parliament back in September 2021. The disclosure of such a wiretapping incident injected a wave of controversy into the electoral landscape, raising concerns about privacy violations and potential political implications.
In response to the accusations, Mitsotákis staunchly defended his party, asserting that no laws had been violated during the surveillance operations. Despite his assertions, the main opposition party, Syriza, wasted no time in labeling the incident as the “Greek Watergate moment.”
Mitsotákis’ campaign was further marred by a tragic incident that shook Greece to its core. In March of this year, the nation witnessed one of the deadliest railway accidents in decades, amplifying anger over poor railway safety measures. The release of audio recordings added fuel to the fire, revealing that a train driver involved in the catastrophic collision had been instructed to disregard a red signal.
The devastating head-on collision occurred near the city of Larissa in Tempi, involving a passenger train carrying over 350 individuals and a freight train. As the death toll climbed to 57, demonstrators flooded the streets, demanding accountability. The aftermath of the tragedy saw intensified tensions between protesters and law enforcement in the capital city of Athens.
In response to the public outcry, the country’s transport minister tendered their resignation. Additionally, a rail workers’ union initiated a strike, accusing the government of neglecting the welfare of workers and exhibiting a lack of respect within the industry. The collision’s devastating impact reverberated through Greece, prompting calls for urgent measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the nation’s railway system.
What will happen now?
As the country anticipates the upcoming Greek legislative elections, the political landscape is filled with uncertainty. The first round of elections has set the stage for a crucial second round that will determine the future course of governance in the country. As the political parties gear up for the next round, the focus will be on garnering support, articulating compelling visions, and addressing the pressing challenges facing the country.
Featured image by: Louiza Vradi/Reuters