Greece elects conservative prime minister
Greece’s centre-right party has won a decisive victory, as Golden Dawn, the extremist, anti-immigrant party which was the third-largest in the Greek parliament, lost its 18 seats.
The New Democracy party led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, 51, secured almost 40 per cent of the vote, compared to 31.5 per cent for Syriza, the left-of-centre party led by the outgoing premier, Alexis Tsipras.
Mitsotakis, a mild-mannered former banker, said Greek voters had given him a “strong mandate” and rejected populism and Eurosceptic parties, unlike in some other European countries.
The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, which evolved from a violent, extremist organisation into a significant political player, failed to reach the 3-per-cent threshold for parliamentary representation with 2.93 per cent of votes.
The party appeared to have been displaced by Greek Solution, which offered a less extreme version of right-wing populism and is set to return 10 MPs.
Mitsotakis, whose father was prime minister from 1990 to 1993, has vowed to cut taxes, attract investment and cut unemployment.
“Greeks deserve better and the time has come for us to prove it,” he said.
Mitsotakis has appealed to the middle class, who have been hit by steep taxes and budget cuts, with his tax-cut pledges.
He has promised to create as many as 750,000 jobs and lure back 500,000 young professionals who fled overseas in the biggest drain of talent seen in a supposedly industrialised nation in recent years.
Tsipras, 44, the prime minister since 2015, said he had phoned Mitsotakis to congratulate him.
The ballot is the first since Greece’s third EU-funded bailout programme ended in 2018 after several austerity programmes since 2010 imposed by international creditors in exchange for loans to avoid bankruptcy. Despite the weak recovery, Greeks say their incomes have been squeezed, pensions have been cut more than 10 times and there are 1.2 million unemployed in a population of 10.7 million. More than half of them under 25.
“The citizens have made their choice. We fully respect the popular vote,” Tsipras said.
In a concession speech, he said: “We paid the price for difficult decisions we had to take.”
The Syriza chief was blamed for enforcing strict austerity measures, including tax rises and spending cuts, in return for three international bailouts.
Tsipras negotiated a controversial deal with neighbouring North Macedonia to rename the country from Macedonia.
Many Greeks consider the use of “Macedonia” as a sign of expansionist aims on the Greek province of the same name.
Golden Dawn lost all its seats. Picture credit: Wikimedia