Greece’s centre-Right New Democracy Government has confirmed its political dominance, with results pouring in from municipal and regional elections on October 8.
All seven regional governors elected so far were affiliated with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s New Democracy party. One of the seven was also backed by the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Six remaining regions go to a run-off on October 15.
Voters credited Mitsotakis with repairing Greece’s economy after a decade of instability, analysts told Brussels Signal.
As a result, the elections have solidified one-party dominance in Greek politics for the first time since the 1974-1981 post-junta years, Eric Sarantis, EmergingMarketWatch senior economist, said in an interview.
Stefanos Kasselakis faced an uncertain future within his Left-wing Syriza party, with 16 out of 44 of his party’s MPs abstaining in the first parliamentary vote for his front-bench team.
Kasselekis was a “technocrat without a solid political background, not trusted by the ideologists of the party”, said Sarantis but he added his party’s poor result was due to its “traditionally deficient municipal mobilisation processes”.
Syriza “never managed to have roots and a presence in local and regional governments, unions, etc,” agreed Kostas Karamarkos, a journalist who formerly worked at Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Kasselakis was a recent arrival from America who “struggles with the Greek language” and whose campaign “relied on American-style communication and marketing techniques,” said Isaac Caballero Suey, a political scientist and Athens-based entrepreneur.
That gave “the impression that Kasselakis is disconnected from the party’s historical left-wing ideals”, he said.
The centre-Left vote was split between Syriza and PASOK, with PASOK finishing second in many regions.
Neither of the Left-wing parties “stood significant chances to challenge New Democracy even in four years from now, unless they decide to collaborate”, said Sarantis.
That still remained a “very unlikely scenario” but Kasselakis seemed to be exploring it by backing PASOK’s Haris Doukas in the second round of Athens municipality elections.
To the Right of New Democracy, 12.8 per cent of the vote was split between three different radical Right-wing parties.
The resounding election success for Mitsotakis has given his government “a very clear space for a clean four-year tenure to implement its pre-election programme”, Sarantis added.
Mitsotakis’s next move will be to push the European Union to boost spending on the bloc’s solidarity fund by €2.5 billion, experts say.
Emergency spending after this year’s fires and floods in Greece threatened to derail its fiscal consolidation, while also limiting Mitsotakis’s financial ability to cut taxes and gradually increase pensions and civil servant wages.
He had “no other option” but to push the EU to bolster the Solidarity Fund’s support following the natural disasters. That was designed “to save his face, as some forces in Greece, notably Syriza, have constantly claimed he is responsible for the floods and blazes” said Christina Zygakis, an international relations researcher and US Embassy scholar in Greece.
Mitsotakis’s other major challenge lay in normalising relations with Turkey amid rising geopolitical risks in the Eastern Mediterranean. The lack of significant domestic opposition would allow him “to manoeuvre independently on this”, Sarantis added.
But Mitsotakis’s political future may not lie in Athens. Greek newspapers have speculated about him “potentially succeeding Charles Michel as the President of the European Council”, noted Thomas Thaler, a Brussels-based political analyst.
By autumn 2024, he will have been Prime Minister for more than five years, “a tenure longer than many of his counterparts”, Thaler pointed out.