Greece’s ruling New Democracy Party is expected to take a clear lead in Sunday’s election, despite the recent scandal and unlikely to take power immediately under the new proportional representation law.
The centre-right New Democracy, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leads its main rival, the radical left Syriza party, by at least five points in the latest polls, while the centre-left Pasok is in third place.
Under electoral laws introduced by the previous Syriza government, a party must win more than 45 percent of the vote to win a majority in the 300-seat Greek parliament. This is unlikely to be achieved on Sunday, meaning a coalition government could be on the cards.
According to the Greek constitution, if there is no clear winner on election day, the party with the most votes gets a three-day mandate to form a government through a coalition. If unsuccessful, the second- and third-highest-vote parties are given an equal chance.
“It will all depend on the results of New Democracy tonight,” said Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of risk analysis company Teneo.
“If Mitsotakis sees that his numbers are low and no government can be formed in the second election, he will aim to achieve some coalition in the coming days,” he added.
Mitsotakis, whose reputation has suffered after a wiretapping scandal and questions over his handling of a train crash that left 57 dead, has repeatedly said he wants to avoid a coalition and will push for a majority government.
This can be achieved by using the new electoral law introduced by his government to hold a second election, which gives 50 bonus seats in the second round to the party with the highest number of votes in the first election.
Greek voters focus on the high cost of living, with inflation weighing heavily on the population and large numbers of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
But it will also be the first election in more than a decade without the supervision of European partners. After years of bailouts and austerity measures following the debt crisis, Greece’s economy has made one of the strongest eurozone recoveries from the Covid-19 pandemic and is poised to return to investment grade.
“Macroeconomic progress over the past four years has been undoubtedly insane, in terms of growth, reduced unemployment and a reduction in the GDP-to-GDP ratio,” said Dimitris Papadimitriou, professor of political science at the University of Manchester.
“The flip side is the cost of living . . . Greek average wages remain very low despite the fact that unemployment has fallen, leading to the second worst purchasing power in the EU, better than Bulgaria,” he added.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is still widely remembered as the politician who nearly forced Greece out of the euro through brinkmanship with EU authorities in his first year in office.
“Syriza has been unable to convince voters that they can offer a better economic structure than what New Democracy is proposing,” Piccoli said.
“Their messaging was confusing and completely missed the opportunity to use the economic card,” he added.
If another election is held, it is expected to be held in late June or early July.