Following a resounding defeat to conservative New Democracy on Sunday night in European Parliament elections, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he will call early elections after the second round of local and regional elections next weekend.
Speaking outside SYRIZA party headquarters in Athens in the wake of his party’s defeat in European Parliament elections, Tsipras, who had said the polls would be a vote of confidence in the government’s policy, admitted that “the outcome was not up to our expectations.”
With 33 percent of votes counted, ND had 33.31 percent ahead of SYRIZA with 23.88 percent and centrist Movement for Change (KINAL) with 7.18 percent. Communist Party KKE had 5.75 percent, ahead of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn with 4.85 and pro-Russian right-wing party Greek Solution with 4.04 percent. The Diem25 party of former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis had 3.15 percent of the vote.
Earlier, ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis demanded Tsipras’ resignation and a general election. In comments to the media following the first official projections that saw his conservative party taking a 9-point lead over SYRIZA, Mitsotakis declared that “Greece needs a new government.” “It is obvious that the Greek people have withdrawn their confidence in this government,” he said.
“The prime minister must assume his responsibilities. He must resign and the country should hold national elections as soon as possible.” “The sun is rising over a brighter Greece, one that has suffered a lot but found the strength to change,” Mitsotakis added. He pledged to work hard to change Greece’s course in a changing Europe.
“I stand before you with full understanding of my patriotic duty.” Expressing respect for fellow citizens that made different political choices, Mitsotakis said he would work hard to earn their trust too.
Former conservative premier Antonis Samaras, whom Tsipras had ousted in 2015, described the outcome as a “victory for Greece.” “This is a very big day. Tomorrow is a new day for all Greeks with new challenges that we shall also overcome,” he said.
“Mr Tsipras was defeated,” KINAL leader Fofi Gennimata said. “The Movement for Change was bolstered,” she said, adding that the party would “curb the fascists.”
Varoufakis, apparently on course to enter the European Parliament with his Diem25 party, said he had proved his critics wrong despite what he described as a “media boycott.” “Tomorrow is the beginning of the end of the Greek crisis,” he said.
On the local and regional level, conservative and centrist candidates fared well. For the role of Attica regional governor, with 15 percent of the votes counted, Giorgos Patoulis, the conservative mayor of Maroussi, was at 37 percent compared to 20.6 percent for leftist incumbent Rena Dourou and 17 percent for socialist challenger Yiannis Sgouros, paving the way for a runoff next weekend.
In Central Macedonia, results pointed to the incumbent governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas winning 62 percent of the vote, apparently capitalizing on public discontent with Greece’s name deal with what is now North Macedonia. “I will be the governor for all the Macedonians,” he said. “We will continue to make Macedonia stronger.”
In the Athens mayoral race, conservative Costas Bakoyannis was in the lead with 42.6 percent, far ahead of SYRIZA’s candidate Nasos Iliopoulos, who was seen securing just 16 percent. In comments late on Sunday night, Bakoyannis said he felt “shock and awe” over the unexpectedly good result.
In Thessaloniki, ND’s candidate for mayor, Nikos Tachiaos, was ahead with 23 percent compared to Constantinos Zervas with 14.75 percent, slightly ahead of SYRIZA’s Katerina Notopoulou with 13.85 percent.
This year, some 528,000 Greeks were eligible to vote for the first time, including 106,760 17-year-olds who assumed the right to vote following a change in the law by the SYRIZA-led government in 2016.
In what was seen as one of the more worrisome developments of the evening, late exit polls indicated that 13 percent of young Greeks aged between 17 and 24 voted for neo-Nazi Golden Dawn against 30 percent who backed ND and 25.6 percent SYRIZA.