Greece goes to the polls on Sunday for a repeat election that, according to the latest opinion polls could see the center-right New Democracy (ND) return to government with a big parliamentary majority.
Opinion polls on Friday showed Kyriakos Mitsotakis heading not only towards a landslide but a comfortable majority afforded by an electoral law that rewards the victor with up to 50 bonus seats.
ND won May 21 vote with a 20-point lead over main opposition SYRIZA, a margin Greece has not seen since the 1970s. But it fell short of the majority needed to rule alone due to a proportional voting system in place for that poll.
This time the poll is being held under a different system, meaning Mitsotakis stands to gain a larger share of seats in parliament if he repeats — or betters — his May performance, as polls suggest he will.
Polls suggest that the party will win a comfortable majority in the new Parliament, gaining many more than the 151 seats required to govern alone.
21,634 voting centers throughout the country opened at 7 a.m. local time and are closing at 7 p.m. when the exit poll will be announced. Shortly afterward the first results will be dripping in and a clear picture of the election will be known as early as 9 p.m.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis is close to a landslide victory according to a series of opinion polls that give his New Democracy (ND) party an even larger winning margin than the vote held in May – its best result since 2007 with 40.8% of the vote.
Mitsotakis warns against complacency in Greece’s election
Mitsotakis has warned against complacency. His main fear is that as voters consider the election result as a foregone conclusion, they would abstain by opting to spend the day at the beach.
“In no way do I consider that the result of the ballot box is a given,” Mitsotakis said in his final pre-election interview with SKAI TV on Friday.
He invited all citizens to go to the polls, pointing out that the result of May 21 does not count. “My appeal is for everyone to exercise their right to vote again,” he stressed.
If ND finds it can’t govern alone, it could seek a third election during the August peak holiday season.
The vote takes place in the shadow of a migrant trawler shipwreck on June 14 that claimed at least 82 lives, with hundreds more feared missing and unlikely to be found.
But the tragedy is not expected to influence the election result.
Mitsotakis’ main opponent is SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras who mastered just above 20 percent in the May election.
Tsipras, who turned a small party on the margins of Greek life into a major political force, is acknowledged to be fighting for his political survival, with a resurgent social-democratic PASOK vying to replace his party as the main opposition.
In a campaign focused on rehabilitating the welfare state, the 48-year-old politician has repeatedly raised the spectre of an “all-powerful” right endangering accepted democratic norms if, in the absence of an effective opposition, Mitsotakis is given free rein.
Election in Greece: The role of small parties
The extent of Mitsostakis’s victory will be affected by the number of parties that reach the 3% support needed to enter Parliament. The small parties’ performance will affect the outcome, as the more parties that manage to elect lawmakers, the higher the threshold for ND to win a majority.
On the far right, Elliniki Lysi, or Greek Solution, won 4.4 percent on May 21. Newcomer Niki, or Victory polls above the 3 percent threshold.
Two far-left parties polling just around 3 percent are splinter groups that left SYRIZA after its surprise 2015 move to accept a new international bailout — months after Tsipras was elected on promises of ending bailout-linked austerity.
Plefsi Eleftherias, or Passage to Freedom, leader Zoe Konstantopoulou was the parliament speaker under Syriza, while Yanis Varoufakis, 62, the secretary of MeRA25, was finance minister during the 2015 standoff with bailout creditors. Plefsi Eleftherias polls above 3 percent, while MeRA 25 just below.