Center-right Mitsotakis wins 2nd term as Greek PM; small far-right parties surge

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s center-right leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is to be sworn in as prime minister on Monday, hours after easily winning a second term with a record-high margin over the left-wing opposition in an election that also ushered new far-right parties into Parliament.

With 99.67% of the vote counted, Mitsotakis’s New Democracy party had 40.55% of the vote — more than twice the main opposition Syriza’s 17.84%. It was the largest margin of victory in half a century, and slightly expanded ND’s 20-percentage-point lead in the previous election five weeks before.

Held under a new electoral law that boosts the first party, Sunday’s vote gives ND a comfortable majority of 158 seats in the 300-member Parliament, with Syriza getting 48. Center-left PASOK elected 32 lawmakers and the Stalinist-rooted Communist Party 20.

The remaining 42 seats will be shared between three far-right parties  — and one representing the far-left.

To the dismay of centrists, Sunday’s strong swing to the right was also accompanied by the return of the far right into parliament.

One of them, Spartiates (Spartans), is endorsed by the jailed former spokesman of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn and will make an entrance in parliament after crossing the three percent threshold.

In this Friday, May 23, 2014 file photo, Ilias Kassidiaris, lawmaker of the extreme right party Golden Dawn, speaks during the main election rally of the party. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

Tsipras said the strongest showing of Greek hard-right parties in decades was a “visible” threat to democracy.

“Fascists will enter parliament… this constitutes a completely toxic environment,” senior Syriza leader Costas Zachariadis told Skai TV.

Voter turnout was just under 53%, compared to just over 61% in the May vote.

Mitsotakis, 55, campaigned on a platform of securing economic growth and political stability as Greece gradually recovers from a nearly decade-long financial crisis.

Supporters of Kyriakos Mitsotakis leader of the center-right New Democracy celebrate outside the headquarters of the party in Athens, Greece, June 25, 2023 (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou is set to formally hand him the mandate to form a government on Monday, after which he will be sworn in and announce his new Cabinet.

His main rival, 48-year-old Alexis Tsipras, served as prime minister from 2015 to 2019 during some of the most turbulent years of Greece’s financial crisis.

Despite Syriza’s dismal performance, Tsipras has shown no inclination to resign, and there have been no open calls from within his party for him to do so. After Sunday’s result, Tsipras said Syriza would move on to focus on next year’s European parliamentary elections.

Mitsotakis, a Harvard graduate, comes from one of Greece’s most prominent political families. His late father, Constantine Mitsotakis, served as prime minister in the 1990s, his sister served as foreign minister and his nephew is the current mayor of Athens. The younger Mitsotakis has vowed to rebrand Greece as a pro-business and fiscally responsible eurozone member.

Supporters of Kyriakos Mitsotakis leader of the center-right New Democracy hold flares outside the headquarters of the party in Athens, Greece, June 25, 2023 (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The strategy, so far, has worked. New Democracy won in all but one of the country’s 59 electoral regions, capturing traditional Socialist and leftwing strongholds, some for the first time.

Despite scandals that hit the Mitsotakis government late in its term, including revelations of wiretapping targeting senior politicians and journalists and a deadly Feb. 28 train crash that exposed poor safety measures in public transportation, voters appeared happy to return to power a prime minister who delivered economic growth and lowered unemployment.

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