Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis insisted Wednesday that an early election, and a likely double one, is out of the question given the war in Ukraine and its widespread economic repercussions.
“We have a war and you are proposing early elections that might as well be double?” Mitsotakis told opposition leader and his predecessor as prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, during a debate in Parliament.
“It’s quite likely that a caretaker government might be needed for two or three months,” Mitsotakis added, referring to the very real possibility that no party will achieve an outright majority in the next Parliament. “You can be asking for early elections until you turn blue; elections will take place at the end of the four-year term,” the prime minister said.
Every government in history has always sworn elections would be held at the end of its term, until they reversed course. Obviously none would ever telegraph such a decision ahead of time. This time, however, the electoral calculus is complicated by the near certainty of a double election, because of changes in the electoral law.
The previous, leftist SYRIZA-led government passed an electoral law that is almost pure proportional representation, in effect a poison pill for the next government. Also, the Constitution mandates that an electoral law comes into effect in the second election after it is voted. This is to prevent opportunistic changes in the law by the ruling party. The Constitution leaves an option for immediate applicability if the law is approved by two-thirds of MPs – that is, by a wide consensus.
New Democracy voted its own law that gives a “bonus” of 30 seats to the winning party, sacrificing proportionality to the goal of a stable, single-party government, which is just as well in Greece, where broad coalition governments are an extreme rarity. The electoral law, previous to SYRIZA’s, also voted by a conservative government, provided for a 50-seat bonus.
There has been a lot of talk of Mitsotakis modifying the new electoral law to increase the seat bonus and thus the likelihood of his forming a new single-party government after a second election, since it is almost certain the parliament elected under proportional representation will be dissolved. He has rejected such calls and officials say he thinks this would appear defeatist.