Tuesday 20 August 2019

Tsipras toppled in Greek general election as voters lose patience over austerity

Bound for power: New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives with his daughter Dafni at the party’s headquarters in Athens after voting. Photo: Reuters/Costas Baltas
Bound for power: New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives with his daughter Dafni at the party’s headquarters in Athens after voting. Photo: Reuters/Costas Baltas

Foo Yun Chee Athens

Greece's ruling leftist Syriza party suffered a landslide defeat in elections yesterday, bringing an end to the government of prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

The opposition conservatives have been returned to power, with prime minister-elect Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying he had a clear mandate for change, pledging more investments and fewer taxes.

An eldery man arrives at a polling station to vote during the Greek general election in Athens. Photo: AFP/Getty
An eldery man arrives at a polling station to vote during the Greek general election in Athens. Photo: AFP/Getty

The win appeared driven by fatigue with years of EU-enforced belt-tightening, combined with high unemployment, after the country almost crashed out of the eurozone at the height of its financial travails in 2015.

Conservative New Democracy had a commanding lead of 39.6pc of the vote - based on 73pc of the votes counted - versus 31.6pc Syriza, according to official tallies.

Exit polls showed New Democracy winning between 155 and 167 seats in the 300-member parliament, taking advantage of an electoral system which gives bonus seats to the frontrunner.

Mr Mitsotakis said in a televised address: "I am committed to fewer taxes, many investments, for good and new jobs, and growth which will bring better salaries and higher pensions in an efficient state."

Mr Tsipras said he respected the will of the Greek people.

"Today, with our head held high we accept the people's verdict," he said.

"To bring Greece to where it is today we had to take difficult decisions (with) a heavy political cost."

Mr Tsipras took over from the conservatives in 2015 as Greece was at the peak of a financial crisis that had ravaged the country since 2010.

Initially vowing to resist deeper austerity, he was forced into signing up to another bailout months after his election, a decision that went down badly with voters.

Mr Mitsotakis, who comes from a powerful political dynasty and whose late father Konstantinos was prime minister from 1990 to 1993, will be sworn into office as early as today.

The 51-year-old assumed the helm of New Democracy in 2016. Although he is seen as a liberal, his party also harbours members with more right-wing views.

Golden Dawn, an extreme right-wing party accused of having neo-Nazi sympathies, lost significant ground with early results suggesting it may not reach the 3pc threshold to gain a presence in parliament.

"The basic reason (for the result) is the economy," said analyst Theodore Couloumbis. "In the past four years, people saw no improvement. There were cutbacks in salaries and pensions."

Mr Mitsotakis will inherit an economy that is growing at a moderate clip but troubled public finances.

Irish Independent

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