The Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis officially announced the date of the parliamentary elections on Tuesday, saying they will take place on May 21.
Speaking at a meeting of his ministers in Athens, the conservative leader said that if the first round of voting is inconclusive and a government is not formed, the second round will take place by early July at the latest.
Mitsotakis noted that the date marks the end of the government’s four-year term, and also takes into account the national university entrance exams in June and the start of the tourism season.
The premier also spoke of the perils of an inconclusive first round, describing the failure to form a government as a “trap,” while adding that the first round will determine “who will govern” and the second “how they will govern.”
“Citizens need to know who they’re voting for as prime minister,” Mitsotakis said, warning that the simple proportional representation system has resulted in a “maelstrom of instability” in other European countries.
Looking back on his government’s time in office, Mitsotakis said that “Greece is in a much better place in 2023 than it was in 2019.”
Conceding that “mistakes were made,” he said that the government’s work “will continue” to “change Greece more unconventionally and boldly.”
Elections in Greece in the shadow of rail disaster
The elections will be held in the shadow of the rail disaster of February 28 at Tempi where 57 people lost their lives.
Public anger over the long-time deficiencies of Greek railways is depicted in the polls, which show that Greeks are turning their backs on traditional parties, including the governing New Democracy (ND), SYRIZA, and socialist PASOK.
The parties who have governed Greece for decades and make up Greece’s political establishment are seen as responsible for the archaic railway system and their response to the tragedy.
Until the tragedy, all opinion polls showed that the governing party had a seemingly unassailable lead. Main opposition SYRIZA, which governed the country between 2015-2019, was following, with Socialist PASOK in third place.
A series of polls now show a significant drop in the popularity of ND. They also show that SYRIZA and PASOK seem unable to reap ND’s losses.
Political analysts note that the angry and shell-shocked public is joining the pool of undecided voters and the smaller parties, such as the Communist Party (KKE), Yanis Varoufakis’ Mera 25, and right-wing populists.
Beneficiaries could include the extreme right party “Ellines” of Ilias Kasidiaris, a former senior member of neo-fascist Golden Dawn currently in jail — if he is allowed to run in the elections.
As a result of the discrediting of the political system, a large increase in the abstention rate could also be recorded.