Kyriakos Mitsotakis returns to the Greek prime minister’s office
THE RIGHT-OF-CENTRE New Democracy (ND) party raced to an expected victory in Greeces general election held on June 25th. It took 40.6% of the vote to win a second four-year term, with the radical left-wing Syriza party trailing a distant second with 17.8%. The conservatives, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, were boosted by the 50 bonus seats they were awarded under a new version of the countrys proportional electoral system. That gave Mr Mitsotakis, who was prime minister until last month when he made way for an interim leader following an inconclusive election, an overall majority of eight seats in the 300-member parliament. Eight parties are set to enter the new house. The second general election in just over a month saw the gap between ND and Syriza widen marginally, a sign of optimism about the chances for a sustained economic recovery against a backdrop of political stability. At the previous poll, on May 21st, under a different system with no bonus seats, ND finished five seats short of an outright parliamentary majority. Mr Mitsotakis believes that his eight-seat majority this time will be enough to push through further reforms. NDs four years of governing for the most part competently and providing generous handouts, during both the covid-19 pandemic and last winters electricity price rises, apparently reassured voters worried about joblessness and soaring prices, according to pollsters. Greeks were horrified by a train crash in February, in which more than 50 people, mostly youngsters, were killed as a result of a botched signal. Earlier this month a ship was wrecked, drowning several hundred Egyptian, Pakistani, Syrian and other asylum-seekers, triggering claims that Greeces coastguard had been negligent. But Mr Mitsotakis seems to have brushed these disasters aside. Yet the emergence of two newly registered far-right nationalist parties, the Spartans and Niki (Greek for victory), which comfortably cleared the 3% threshold for entering parliament, is giving observers some pause for thought. Support for the Spartans jumped in the last few days of campaigning, according to opinion polls, after a jailed former leader of Golden Dawn, an outlawed fascist party, tweeted that he would back them. A third right-wing group, the pro-Russian Hellenic Solution, also got seats in parliament. Pundits note that far-right splinter groups have a record of undermining ND politicians, especially in the provinces. Together the three hard-right parties racked up almost 13% of the vote. On the campaign trail in northern Greece, Mr Mitsotakis, the son of a centrist former prime minister, appealed to ND supporters not to break ranks. Not all were listening, it seems. Syrizas dismal performance at the polls reflects a wider malaise among left-wing parties across western Europe that have been losing ground to conservatives and populists. After a third consecutive defeat, the political future of its leader, Alexis Tsipras, who served as prime minister from 2015 to 2019, looks in grave doubt. Once the hero of Europes radical left, Mr Tsipras pushed Greece to the brink of leaving the euro, then reversed course and carried out harsh but effective measures imposed by Brussels, preparing the way for Mr Mitsotakis to steer Greece back to normality. But Mr Tsipras has lost much of his former support, for example from older Greeks, after ND cut delays in awarding pensions, while a majority of new voterstraditionally fertile ground for the leftpragmatically backed the conservative choice. The veteran Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), hoping to become the official opposition, made only modest gains, capturing 11.8%, still well behind even the battered Syriza. Mr Mitsotakiss team promises a flood of Greek and foreign investment in his second term. But there are warning signs, too: several economists note that Athens is suffering a property bubble. Prices have almost reached levels last seen in 2008 before the financial crash. The new government will have to tread cautiously.