Greece’s new prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, vowed to immediately press ahead with his ambitious reform programme after winning a decisive victory in the general elections on Sunday.
The New Democracy leader said his commanding 24-point lead over the leftist main opposition Syriza party had given him a “strong mandate” to modernise a country long seen as resistant to reform.
“The people have given us a secure majority,” the centre-right politician said in a televised address as jubilant scenes unfolded outside his party’s headquarters. “Major reforms will go ahead with speed.”
With more than 96% of ballots counted, New Democracy had 40.5% of the vote, a result that will allow Mitsotakis to control 158 seats in Athens’s 300-seat parliament.
Syriza, led by his main opponent, Alexis Tsipras, clinched 17.8%, a rout even worse than the 20% it achieved in elections last month.
The social democrat Pasok came in third with 11.9 %, followed by the communist KKE party, which garnered 7.6 % – in both cases improved performances on their showings in May.
Mitsotakis, 55, had also triumphed in those elections, but failed to win an outright majority because of the electoral system of proportional representation. The pro-business leader called a second election with the aim of forming a stable government that would allow him to push ahead with wide-ranging reforms.
In an unexpected development this time, three hard-right parties and a populist leftist party, Course of Freedom, also succeeded in surpassing the 3% threshold to get into parliament, ensuring that it will be highly fragmented.
The previously-unheard of Spartans, established barely three weeks ago and backed by the jailed former spokesman of the now defunct neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, won 4.7%. Its leader, Vassillis Tsingas, said it would inject a “new style and ethos” into Greek political life.
The pro-Russian, ultra-nationalist Greek Solution party won 4.5, % while Niki, a social conservative, religious force set up to contest the May poll, squeezed through with 3.7%.
MeRA 25, led by the maverick former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, failed to make it into the house.
“The non-entry of MeRA 25 into parliament is the least of it,” Varoufakis told reporters, saying what the left should be mourning was its failure to turn a 10-year battle of resistance against austerity “into a progressive front [that could]prevent the transformation of rage into a far-right current”.
Referring to the fringe parties, Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at political analysts Eurasia, said: “This will make it the most conservative parliament since the restoration of Greece’s democracy in 1974. The significant support for Spartans is particularly alarming … showing a significant degree of sympathy for far right, ultra-nationalist views.”
Rahman said of Mitsotakis’s comfortable majority: “He is now likely to move quickly to implement far-reaching reforms to the public sector and the judiciary, health and education sectors. New Democracy’s victory follows a similar path of other southern European countries, which have now returned to the right, having tacked left after the eurozone’s financial crisis.”
The win, he said, could be attributed in part to Mitsotakis “reaching out to centrist moderates” despite his uncompromising record on issues such as migration.
The Harvard-educated former financier, the scion of a political dynasty, whose father, Constantine, was a prime minister in the early 1990s, hails from the liberal strand of a party whose views range from the ultra-nationalist to centre right.
Though viewed as a foregone conclusion, the election result comes days after a shipwreck off the country’s coast left hundreds of migrants dead, prompting criticism of the response of a coastguard trained under his watch, and brought the leader’s tough stand on migration into sharp relief.
Analysts said the scale of New Democracy’s victory over Syriza was testimony to the economic growth witnessed during Mitsotakis’s first term in office and the desire of voters to see Greece continue on a path of “normality” after the nation’s rollercoaster financial crisis.
In his first term in office, Mitsotakis brought down unemployment, reduced taxes, attracted foreign investors, and digitalised an outdated bureaucracy that had become synonymous with Greece’s resistance to modernisation.
In his second he has promised to raise salaries, increase the minimum monthly wage to €950 (£815), lower taxes further, restructure the public health system and improve infrastructure nationwide.