Greek elections see the re-emergence of the centre right and an end to the economic crisis
- Alexis Tsipras – Incumbent Prime Minister of Greece; Leader of Syriza
- Kyriakos Mitsotakis – New Prime Minister of Greece; Leader of the New Democracy Party
On July 7, the 2019 Greek Legislative Election was held to elect the new Prime Minister of Greece. The two major parties vying for victory were Syriza, the previous ruling party, and the New Democracy Party, a historically significant party that voters abandoned last election in the midst of the continuing economic crisis. The New Democracy Party, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, won with 39.85% of the popular vote, while Syriza, led by incumbent Alexis Tsipras, received 31.53%.
In the Greek electoral system, 250 of the 300 parliament seats are assigned by proportional representation, with a 50 seat bonus awarded to the party receiving the most votes. The new ruling party, the New Democracy Party, attained a majority of 158 seats—more than twice the number in the previous election. Mitsotakis was elected on a platform of reversing the economic austerity introduced by Syriza, promising to ignite the economy by encouraging investment and privatisation. However, while Syriza’s platform also promised many cuts in taxes as well as economic relief, a widespread distrust in the government ultimately won the election for New Democracy.
The Incumbent: Alexis Tsipras
Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza, was elected in 2015. At the time of his election, Greece had been in a government debt crisis for 6 years after being forced to take two Bailout Programmes (emergency loans) that totalled to €223 billion. Tsipras promised to end the Bailout Programmes as well as the economic austerity caused by the debt crisis. This platform won him a majority after forming a coalition with the Independent Greeks party. However, Syriza “set the bar too high – and [they] didn’t reach it”, according to Dimitris Rapides, a representative of Syriza stationed in Brussels.
Tspiras worked towards cutting taxes and held a Bailout Referendum in July 2015 to decide whether Greece was to accept the austerity conditions, continuing with the Bailout Programme. The majority of Greek citizens voted not to accept the austerity conditions. Despite this, after a week of pressure from the EU threatening a potential exit from the organisation, Tspiras took a deal that would continue the Bailout Programme for 3 years and introduce even harsher austerity conditions. This was widely regarded as a capitulation of Tsipras to the EU.
Tspiras did have some success during his time in office. He managed to stabilise the economy and, in 2018, fulfil his promise of exiting the Bailout Programme. In addition, the unemployment rate lowered by almost 10% under his leadership. Despite these successes, Tspiras’ time in office was dominated by dissatisfaction due to broken pledges and his agreement with the EU. This discontent became a deciding factor in Mitsotakis’ victory.
Mitsotakis’ plans for Greece
Mitsotakis has criticised Syriza’s economic development plans, saying that change was not happening quick enough. He pledged to continue lowering taxes and privatising services in the country, as well as raising the minimum wage. He also intends to increase worker benefits by incentivising businesses to offer these benefits. In essence, Mitsotakis’ approach to ending the government debt crisis is similar to that of Syriza. Voters have simply turned towards New Democracy in the wake of Tspiras’ suffering reputation. The Bailout Programme has ended and Greece’s economy is stable, and it is unlikely that New Democracy will be forced to go back on their promises. With taxes lowering and a budget aimed for surpluses in the coming years, it seems that Greece’s national debt crisis could finally be seeing an end.
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