Greek National Election: Turning the Clock Back?

by Javier Terrero Dávila

The rise of the centre-right party New Democracy (ND) ends the four-year government of Aléxis Tsipras and represents a comeback of traditional politics in Greece, after ten years of unstable governments and the collapse of historical parties in 2012.

‘New politics’ are becoming old-fashioned in Greece faster than expected. The Greek people spoke clearly on 7 July, and chose Kyriakos Mitsotakis to govern their country for the next four years. The leader of the centre-right traditional party New Democracy (ND) has replaced the leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras after a snap election.

This was not a neck-to-neck victory. Kyriakos Mitsotakis triumphed in the national election with almost 40% percent of the votes, leaving Tsipras behind by nearly 10 points (31,5%). Thanks to Greece’s electoral law, which rewards the winner with 50 extra seats in the Hellenic Parliament, ND will enjoy an absolute majority until next elections in 2023, holding 158 out of the 300 seats of the only legislative chamber in Greece.  

An absolute majority has not emerged in Greece since 2009. The financial crises then hit the European continent and the unfolding Eurozone debt crisis forced the bailout of Greece in 2010, plunging the country in a recession for which future generations will still be paying until 2060, according to recent estimates.

In 2013, SYRIZA erupted as a revolutionary, anti-austerity party. After winning the elections without an absolute majority, the party justified a coalition government with the far-right National Patriotic Alliance with a single purpose: to give economic control back to the people and to reject EU structural reforms. The traditional parties in Greece collapsed. The Socialist Party (PASOK) almost disappeared from the public arena and the ND was punished for their pro-austerity stand.

However, the defeat of Tsipras in the negotiations with the EU and three years of a rather limited economic recovery made Greek voters more sceptic regarding SYRIZA’s ability to deliver any ‘revolutionary’ change. In fact, the ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has won this election with traditional liberal promises: to cut taxes, to attract foreign investments and to boost employment by fostering a market-friendly environment.

Although SYRIZA has maintained its position as the leading party in the left with 86 seats, the old PASOK enjoyed a mild recovery, reaching 22 seats. Furthermore, the eruption of MeRA 25, the far-left party led by former SYRIZA Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, which received 9 seats, further erodes the monopoly of left-wing alternatives.

Moreover, the disenchantment of far-right voters with the neo-fascist and populist party Golden Dawn, which has not managed to retain any of the 18 seats secured in 2015, has helped Mitsotakis to unify almost all right wingers under the same ND banner.

Disillusioned with the populist utopia, Greek voters have decided to turn the clock back and vote for a traditional party, ND, the party once blamed for the crisis in 2012. On 8 July, Kyriakos Mitsotakis was sworn in as Greece's new Prime Minister. An absolute majority implies that he will not encounter difficulties in bringing to life major legislative changes, which will have a clear impact on Greek people and businesses.

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