Greek elections: despite scandals, Mitsotakis looks set to win
The affairs of the ruling conservatives have been the main issue of the pre-election campaign, alongside the tragic train crash.
Tomorrow, Greeks go to the polls. Voters will choose between 36 parties. Opinion polls predict that the ruling conservative New Democracy (ND) is likely to win. The left-wing Syriza party, which has already led the country for one and only one term between 2015 and 2019, is breathing down its neck. It does not look as if any of the winners will be able to form a coalition on their own.
“On Sunday night we will be the winners. We will continue on the path of recovery of the country that we started four years ago,” the current 55-year-old Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced at one of the pre-election rallies this week.
Polls show that six political parties can hope to win seats in the 300-seat parliament: in addition to New Democracy and Syriza, the socialist Pasok, the Communist Party of Greece, the radically patriotic Greek Salvation and the progressive leftists Mera25. The other parties, which need to win three percent of the vote to enter parliament, are unlikely to do so. The novelty of these elections is that the winning party will not get an extra 50 seats, as has been the custom so far. The winning party will therefore have to seek support from smaller parties.
PM Micotakis has turned into a paranoid leader during his term in office
“Prime Minister of a hundred scandals”
The pre-election campaign revolved mainly around the myriad scandals of the current Prime Minister Mitsotakis. Political opponents accuse him, among other things, of the wiretapping scandal, the so-called Greek Watergate, and of responsibility for the train crash in Tempe almost three months ago, in which almost 60 people died.
“He is the Prime Minister of a hundred scandals. A Prime Minister who knowingly lies to cover up the obvious and countless responsibilities for his criminal policies,” Micotakis is described by Kostas Vaksevanis, editor of the Greek media Documento. It was Vaksevanis who, together with his team of journalists, exposed a whole series of political and corruption scandals involving the Greek leadership.
During his term in office, Micotakis turned into a paranoid leader: he spied on political rivals, he matched his own inaccuracies in speeches, and he answered questions from critical journalists in a cutting and aggressive manner.
Under Mitsotakis, Greece has slipped to 108th place in the media freedom rankings — dead last among European countries. During his government, journalist Yorgos Karaivaz was killed. Critical journalists in Greece are eavesdropped on, threatened, and constantly have to fight off lawsuits in the courts from the authorities. “Not since the military dictatorship have we seen such control over the media”, comments Aris Hatzistefanou, a local documentary film-maker and writer.
In addition to the wiretapping affair, which has become a political scandal, the public is particularly upset about the recent train crash. Just this week, the victims’ representatives sued the Greek government, headed by Mitsotakis, in addition to those responsible at Hellenic Railways. To this move, the latter responded indifferently, upsetting the mourners: “The victims have become a tool in a political campaign.”
Syriza presents itself as a symbol of change
In addition to harsh criticism of the current government, Syriza, embodied by former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, 48, is relying on rhetoric promising change in its election campaign, which in recent weeks has begun to capture the votes of the young and the undecided. “A Syriza victory is a vote for change. It means the defeat and disapproval of Mitsotakis’ New Democracy and a mandate to form a stable, long-term and progressive government”, Tsipras predicts.
Greeks have already heard promises of change from Syriza in the run-up to the historic 2015 parliamentary elections. In addition to criticising New Democracy, Tsipras is trying to appeal to young people with new faces from the worlds of media and music, among others. Syriza is betting on social policies and workers’ rights, and promises to raise the minimum wage and reform the current healthcare system.
In the pre-election debates, there was little focus on the parties’ programmes and much more on how to join forces to remove New Democracy. Critics therefore accuse Tsipras and the Social Democrats of trying to form a “government with a purpose”, arguing that its only role will be to bring Mitsotakis to justice, not the economic development of the country.
Destiny in the hands of the Social Democrats
But the future of Greece will be decided by the social democrats of Pasok — Movement for Change. The Social Democrats have had to shrug off accusations in the past that they were to blame for the harsh austerity measures, since it was their President, Yorgos Papandreou, who invited international lenders to Greece in 2010. Later, however, New Democracy and Syriza also endorsed the neoliberal measures, which has now made these accusations forgotten.
Pasok has undergone a series of changes in recent years. They have changed several leaders, changed names (Movement for Change, then back to Pasok-Movement for Change), taken a much more critical stance towards former close coalition partners New Democracy, but it is not at all clear what position they will take towards Syriza.
“Tsipras is misleading the Greek people. His inconsistency and populism know no bounds. He is trying to gain power by once again making a mockery of the Greek people”, Pasok President Nikos Andrulakis recently reproached him.
Article was originally published in Slovenian language 20.5.2023 in Slovenian language: Volitve v Grčiji: Kljub škandalom se Micotakisu obeta zmaga (vecer.com)