21 May 2023

Polls open in Greece’s first election since end of bailout controls

21 May 2023

Polls have opened in Greece’s parliamentary election, the first since the country’s economy ceased to be subject to strict supervision and control by international lenders who had provided bailout funds during its nearly decade-long financial crisis.

The two main contenders in Sunday’s vote are conservative prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, 55, a Harvard-educated former banker, and 48-year-old Alexis Tsipras, who heads the left-wing Syriza party and served as prime minister during some of the financial crisis’ most turbulent years.

Although Mr Mitsotakis has been steadily ahead in opinion polls, a newly introduced electoral system of proportional representation makes it unlikely that whoever wins the election will be able to garner enough seats in Greece’s 300-member parliament to form a government without seeking coalition partners.

The winner of Sunday’s election will have three days to negotiate a coalition with one or more other parties.

If that fails, the mandate to form a government is then given to the second party.

But deep divisions between the two main parties and four smaller ones expected to enter parliament mean a coalition will be hard to come by, making a second election likely on July 2.

The second election would be held under a new electoral law which makes it easier for a winning party to form a government by giving it a bonus of up to 50 seats.

A multitude of smaller parties are also vying for votes, although only a few are likely to have any chance of meeting the 3% threshold to gain seats in Greece’s 300-member parliament.

Greece’s once-dominant socialist Pasok party is likely to be at the centre of any coalition talks. Overtaken by Syriza during Greece’s 2009-2018 financial crisis, the party has been polling at around 10%.

Its leader, Nikos Androulakis, 44, was at the centre of a wiretapping scandal in which his phone was targeted for surveillance.

Polling at around 10%, Mr Pasok would be vital in any coalition deal, but Mr Androulakis’ poor relationship with Mr Mitsotakis, who he accuses of covering up the wiretapping scandal, mean a deal with the conservatives is unlikely.

His relationship with Mr Tsipras is also poor, accusing him of trying to poach Pasok voters.

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