- By Nick Beck in Athens and Paul Kirby in London
- BBC News
Greece’s conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis won the national elections, hailing his party’s big victory as a “political earthquake”.
The center-right New Democracy was riding close to 41% of the vote, five seats short of a majority.
He was congratulated by his centre-left rival Alexis Tsipras, whose party was poised for a poor result of only 20%.
Mitsotakis said the result showed that the Greeks had given his party a mandate for a four-year government.
“The people want to choose a Greece run by a majority government and the new democracy without the help of others,” he said in a victory speech.
Hours earlier, party supporters cheered in Athens as a poll showed the unexpected size of the New Democracy party’s victory. As the results came in, it was clear that pre-election polls had underestimated the 20-point margin between the two major parties.
With 88% of the results counted, Mitsotakis’ party is set to win 145 seats, five short of the 150 required for a majority.
His remarks were taken as an indication that he would not be looking to share power with another party, but rather to run in a second round in late June, when the winning party would get additional seats.
Other big winners in the election included Syriza’s socialist rival PASOK, who was set to win 12% of the vote. That makes him a potential kingmaker if Mitsotakis decides to enter coalition talks.
His party has ruled Greece for the past four years, and he can boast that the country’s growth last year was close to 6%.
His plan for the nation was that only he could be trusted to steer the Greek economy forward and boost recent growth. The Greeks seem to have responded positively – more so than might have been expected.
Giorgos Adamopoulos, 47, voted for New Democracy just a few hundred meters from the Acropolis in Athens.
He told the BBC that Greece deserved a better form of politics, but endorsed Mitsotakis because he was impressed by his record after four years as prime minister.
Four years ago, winning 41% of the vote would have been enough to secure a majority in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.
Now it takes more than 45%, because the winning party is no longer entitled to the 50-seat bonus in the first round, making the second round more likely.
Mr. Mitsotakis will keep an eye on the extra seats he is entitled to if he wins the second round. An absolute majority would give him four years in power with a government of his choosing.
One reason Mitsotakis might prefer to avoid allying with PASOK is that socialist leader Nikos Androulakis was the target of a wiretapping scandal last year.
This led to the resignation of Mitsotakis’ nephew, who was serving as chief of staff to the prime minister, as well as head of Greek intelligence.
Mr Androulakis believes the prime minister knew he was one of dozens of people targeted by illegal spyware.
The election campaign was overshadowed by a railway tragedy in February that claimed the lives of 57 people, many of them students.
Opposition parties have highlighted the disaster as a symptom of a dysfunctional state that has been reduced to the bone after years of economic crisis and lack of investment.
First-time voters Chrisanthe and Vagelis, both 18, voted for Syriza because their generation wanted “something new, something different”.
“I think everyone deserves a second chance. [Tsipras] “We only had four years left,” Chrisanthi said.
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