ATHENS — Greece’s conservative ruling party achieved a landslide victory in Sunday’s election, but it will have to wait for a second vote later this summer in its bid to secure an outright majority.
The New Democracy party of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis managed to gain a double-digit lead over its main rival, the left-wing Syriza party, and was missing only a few seats for a majority even with the new proportional representation system, according to early results.
“The political earthquake that occurred today calls on all of us to accelerate the process for a final governmental solution,” Mitsotakis declared Sunday evening from his party headquarters.
“The data from the ballot box is catalytic — it proves that New Democracy has the approval to govern independently and strongly and they demanded it emphatically, in an absolute way,” he said.
With 75 percent of the votes counted, New Democracy was poised to get 40.8 percent of the vote and 145 seats in the 300-seat parliament. Syriza was lagging with only 20.1 percent and 72 seats, while the Socialist Pasok party had 11.7 percent and 42 seats. The Communists KKE had 7.1 percent and 25 seats and the nationalist Greek Solution 4.5 percent and 16 seats.
Three smaller parties that initially looked poised to get 3 percent and top the threshold to make it to parliament, eventually scored lower. The participation rate was at 59.2 percent, the Interior Ministry reported.
Nonetheless, New Democracy didn’t gather the percentage of votes — 45 percent — needed to win an outright majority.
Mitsotakis managed to gain among voters despite his premiership being burdened with a spying scandal, spiraling inflation and mounting concerns over the rule of law.
“Our collective bodies will be convened immediately in order to evaluate the election results,” said Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, calling the results extremely negative for his party.
However, he said “the election cycle is not yet over, as there will probably be a second election and therefore, we do not have the time to wait. We must immediately make all changes necessary, in order to give the best possible conditions to the next crucial and final electoral battle.”
“It is a devastating outcome for the opposition, especially for Syriza,” said Wolfango Piccoli, co-founder of risk analysis company Teneo.
“It will take a long time for the main opposition party to recover, leaving New Democracy in a position to dominate Greek politics and run the government with no meaningful scrutiny,” he said.
“The outcome of today’s vote will be welcome by investors, but ND’s dominance of the political system together with a weak opposition may raise concerns about clientelism and the quality of policy-making,” Piccoli added.
“The resounding victory of New Democracy sends a clear and undisputed message all over Europe,” said Thanasis Bakolas, the center-right European People’s Party secretary general, adding that this is the first time since 2000 in Greece that the incumbent government emerges stronger after its term.
“A message to Brussels? — Today’s electoral result is a clear message against all those outside Greece who have consistently questioned the quality of Greek democracy and the will of the Greek people,” Bakolas added.
Starting from Monday, each of the three leading parties will get the mandate to form a government, starting with the winner, before passing to the second and then third party. Each one will have up to three days to try to form a government.
If there is no agreement on a coalition, the parliament elected on Sunday will be sworn in and then dissolved, paving the way for a second round of elections to take place and a caretaker government will be sworn in.
Bolstered by his triumph, Mitsotakis is expected to immediately seek a second vote, rejecting the option of a coalition after this first round of voting.
That means Greeks will probably head to the ballot boxes again on June 25 or July 2, with New Democracy poised to gain an outright majority, thanks to a system that grants the winning party in the second round up to 50 bonus seats.