Greece to hold national election on May 21, PM announces
28.03.2023 • 13:11
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called parliamentary elections for May 21, saying he wanted a clean slate to push through further reforms after four years at the helm.
Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party has held a comfortable lead over opposition leftist SYRIZA since it came to power in 2019, opinion polls show, but a February 28 rail disaster which killed 57 people has stirred public anger and seen that gap narrow.
“The country and its citizens need clear horizons… the national elections will be held at the end of the four-year term, as I had committed from the start,” Mitsotakis told a televised cabinet meeting.
The rail disaster on the Athens-Thessaloniki route, Greece’s deadliest on record, sparked mass protests over the safety shortcomings of an underfunded and poorly maintained network, the legacy of a decade-long financial crisis, which ended in 2018.
Mitsotakis said the “painful and traumatic” experience of the rail disaster highlighted deficiencies the state still had.
“Overturning all these is a clear priority for the next day,” Mitsotakis said.
The tragedy left an indelible mark on the collective voter psyche, said the head of ALCO polling agency Costas Panagopoulos.
“Public fury and negative emotions have multiplied, and hit the main narrative of this government, which was that it changed Greece,” he told Reuters.
“It will be crucial to see whether a protest vote will prevail, or if the government narrative of stability will,” Panagopoulos said.
The May 21 poll will take place under a newly introduced system of proportional representation. That system makes it difficult for a party to gain a clear majority, setting the stage for a second, run-off round.
That vote will take place “at the latest by early July,” the premier said.
“The first ballot will decide who will be ruling (the country) and the second ballot will decide how they will be ruling,” he said. “On May 21, Greek citizens will choose if the country will continue to seek winning the bet of reforms.” [Reuters]