Exit polls in Greece project landslide win for conservative New Democracy party

Poll projects Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ party gaining 40-44% of vote, with main rival Syriza party suffering defeat with just 16-19%

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, center, leader of center-right New Democracy party poses for the media with his daughter Dafni Mitsotakis, left, and son Konstantinos Mitsotakis at a polling station in Athens, Greece, June 25, 2023. (AP/ Yorgos Karahalis)
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, center, leader of center-right New Democracy party poses for the media with his daughter Dafni Mitsotakis, left, and son Konstantinos Mitsotakis at a polling station in Athens, Greece, June 25, 2023. (AP/ Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS, Greece — An exit poll from Greece’s second election in five weeks indicates the conservative New Democracy party has won by a landslide in Greece’s national elections on Sunday, gaining enough parliamentary seats to form a government for a second four-year term.

The poll projects Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ party gaining 40-44% of the vote, with his main rival, the left-wing Syriza party led by former premier Alexis Tsipras suffering a crushing defeat, with just 16-19% projected support, even worse than his 20% in the last elections in May.

If confirmed, the margin would be the widest for the conservatives in almost 50 years, as voters rewarded them for nursing Greece back to economic health after a crippling debt crisis.

Mitsotakis, 55, who steered Greece from the coronavirus pandemic to two consecutive years of strong growth, had already a scored a thumping win in an election just a month ago.

But having fallen short by five seats in parliament of being able to form a single-party government, the Harvard graduate declined to form a coalition, in effect forcing 9.8 million Greek voters back to the ballot boxes.

Casting his vote earlier Sunday, Mitsotakis, who hails from one of Greece’s most influential political families, said the country was “voting for a second time in a few weeks to get a stable and effective government.”

Election officials count votes at a polling station during general elections in Thessaloniki, on June 25, 2023. (Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP)

With a defeat for Tsipras already largely a foregone outcome, the leftist could only ask voters not to give Mitsotakis such a large margin that the conservatives would have free rein without checks and balances in parliament.

But in a blow to Tsipras, exit polls suggest that his party scored even fewer votes than in May.


Mitsotakis became prime minister in 2019, beating his predecessor Tsipras on a vow to put a decade of economic crisis in the past.

That election was the first in the EU nation’s post-bailout era, at a time when businesses and workers were ailing under the burden of heavy taxes imposed by Syriza to build a budget surplus demanded by international creditors.

Over the next four years, tax burdens were eased, and while the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Greece’s vital tourism revenues, the country has since bounced back strongly with growth of 8.3% in 2021 and 5.9% last year.

That was helped in part by more than 57 billion euros ($62 billion) that were dished out by the government to cushion the impact of the health crisis and inflation.

This undated handout image provided by Greece’s coast guard on June 14, 2023, shows scores of people covering practically every free stretch of deck on a battered fishing boat that later capsized and sank off southern Greece. (Hellenic Coast Guard via AP)

Mitsotakis also had license to spend more under the EU’s more relaxed pandemic-era rules.

He played up Greece’s newfound economic health in his re-election bid, saying his conservatives cut 50 taxes while increasing national output by 29 billion euros and overseeing the largest infrastructure upgrades since 1975.

The message appeared to have gone down well with voters weary of Greece’s debt years that were awash with job losses, rising payments, and companies going bankrupt.

Aris Manopoulos, a shop owner, said he “voted for New Democracy so that the country can advance, and continue to revive economically.”

No momentum

While Greece made headlines over a migrant shipwreck tragedy this month, the disaster had little impact on the election campaign.

In a rare reminder of the tragedy, a protester held up a “I stand with refugees” placard behind Mitsotakis, as the conservative leader addressed journalists after voting. The man was quickly removed by security.

For many, the campaign focus was squarely on the economy.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, right, leader of the center-right New Democracy party, talks to supporters at a polling station in Athens, Greece, June 25, 2023. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Yet although inflation remains a key concern, Tsipras’s call for wage hikes failed to garner momentum.

He remains for many the prime minister who nearly crashed Greece out of the euro, and the leader who reneged on a vow of abolishing austerity to sign the country on to more painful bailout terms.

Having already lost four electoral contests to Mitsotakis, a fifth defeat on Sunday could end up costing Tsipras his top job at Syriza.

The hard-right meanwhile may be making a comeback, with three small nationalist parties possibly squeezing past the 3% threshold for getting into parliament.

One of them, Spartiates, is endorsed by the jailed former spokesman of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn Ilias Kasidiaris.

Ahead of the vote, Mitsotakis had warned against the extreme voices, saying letting them into parliament would only cause “democratic cacophony.”

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