Local elections confirm ND’s dominance

Few runoff challenges from fragmented opposition

Local elections confirm ND’s dominance

It will take next Sunday’s runoff in the regional and municipal contests to determine whether Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will achieve his ambitious goal of “13 and 3,” that is, winning all 13 regions and the three biggest cities: Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus.

What the first round showed is that the conservative New Democracy party’s domination of the political landscape, established in the successive national elections of last May and June, has hardly been dented, even as its second term in government was marked by natural disasters – wildfires and floods – where the state’s response was often roundly criticized. In seven of the 13 regions, the New Democracy-backed candidates were elected Sunday, although this number included socialist Stavros Arnaoutakis, whom New Democracy decided to back this time, and who romped to a fourth term as governor of Crete. As Kathimerini went to press Sunday night, an eighth candidate, Dimitris Ptochos in the Peloponnese, was a fraction of a percentage point short of the 43% threshold required for election in the first round.

More importantly, Sunday’s outright winners included Nikos Hardalias, the former conservative minister who won the country’s most populous region, Attica.

In the capital Athens, the incumbent mayor, Kostas Bakoyannis, came just short of outright victory, polling almost as much as he did in 2019.

Citizens confirmed their trust in New Democracy and its choices of candidates, said Mitsotakis, who notably referred to the outright victories of Hardalias and Apostolos Tzitzikostas in central Macedonia. “Next week, we will fight for our candidates present in the runoffs,” he added.

“The problems do not have [political] colors,” Mitsotakis said, adding that the government will cooperate with all regional governors.

The opposition emerged fragmented and mostly fought among themselves, especially left-wing SYRIZA and socialist PASOK, for second place and primacy among the left-of-center electorate. In several contests, as in Athens and Attica, opposition slates scored in the mid-teens, while New Democracy candidates topped 40%.

PASOK officials said they were satisfied with their results, especially with their candidates in Athens and Thessaloniki, who beat their SYRIZA rivals into third place. In Thessaloniki, Stelios Angeloudis, a socialist who did not get PASOK’s endorsement due to local rivalries, is set to run a very competitive runoff race. And, in Piraeus, incumbent Yiannis Moralis was elected with about 70% of the votes, with New Democracy, as in Crete, jumping into the bandwagon. But in Attica, Yiannis Sgouros, a former governor from 2010-14, was pushed into fourth place.

A sure sign of the opposition’s weakness and fragmentation is that in the five governors’ contests headed for a runoff – six, if the Peloponnese is included – the main challenger to the New Democracy-endorsed candidates are, with the exception of Thessaly, conservative dissidents. In Thessaly’s case, incumbent conservative governor Kostas Agorastos was held at just over 41%, with his challenger, Dimitris Kouretas, at over 34%. Agorastos, who got 58% in the first round in 2019, paid the price of his response to September’s disastrous floods.

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