Center-right opposition New Democracy swept to victory in the second round of municipal and regional elections on Sunday with conservative-backed candidates clinching the capital's mayorship and virtually all Greek regions.
With 98 percent of vote counted at 10.30 p.m. Sunday night, Giorgos Patoulis, the New Democracy-backed candidate for Athens regional governor, had trounced his leftist opponent, incumbent Rena Dourou, garnering 65.75 percent of the vote to her 34.2 percent, while Costas Bakoyannis, also a conservative-backed candidate, clinched 65.26 percent of the vote against leftist SYRIZA’s Nasos Iliopoulos’ 34.75 percent to become the capital’s new mayor-elect.
In Thessaloniki, however, Constantinos Zervas, a member of ND running as an independent, got 66.76 percent in the mayoral race, versus 33.24 for the official ND candidate, Nikos Tahiaos.
In Greece’s main port city of Piraeus, incumbent independent candidate Yiannis Moralis appeared to have held firm, receiving 57.84 percent, compared with 42.16 percent of ND’s Nikolas Vlahakis.
Referring to a “great victory,” Patoulis called on those who supported his campaign to help him tackle the region’s problems. “I asked you for a new start for Attica and we achieved it,” he told a cheering crowd. “We deserve better and we will make things better,” he said.
Conceding defeat, Dourou said, “we stood up with conviction against misinformation and the exploitation of two national tragedies,” referring to the 2017 floods in Mandra, western Attica, and the deadly fires in Mati, eastern Attica, last summer.
Bakoyannis, for his part, sought to send a message of action and unity. “We may not win all the battles but we’ll fight them together,” he said, adding that “there are no more parties as of tomorrow on the municipal council.” “No more talk; now it’s time for work, work, work,” Bakoyannis told supporters. His leftist rival Iliopoulos congratulated Bakoyannis but stressed that low voter turnout, estimated as high as 60 percent, was a “major issue.”
Earlier in the evening, ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Bakoyannis’ uncle, declared that the election results heralded a major political change for the country. “The map has been painted blue, but in this case, blue is not the color of our party, but of our country,” he said. He also described upcoming snap general elections as “critical,” saying that those polls would lead to “hope becoming reality in the Greece we want.”
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also spoke to reporters Sunday night, declaring that in politics, as in life, “it is important to know how to win, but also know how to lose.” He said SYRIZA will rally its forces for “the battle of all battles, the national elections.” Speaking earlier in the day, after casting his vote, Tsipras called on citizens to choose “progressive” candidates and touted the new system of proportional representation that his government introduced as promoting cooperation but which critics have decried as an attempt to preserve SYRIZA’s influence.
In an article in Sunday’s Kathimerini, former conservative premier Antonis Samaras noted that SYRIZA was on the way out “after four-and-a-half years of toxic government.”
“Society must heal the wounds that SYRIZA has left,” he said. He added that SYRIZA had done something positive too. “It destroyed the myth of the Left in Greece too (everywhere else it collapsed years ago) and it demolished the myth of so-called ‘progressiveness.’ It proved itself to be deeply reactionary. It has no visions for the future. It lives with ghosts from the past.”