Greek PM concedes defeat as New Democracy near win


8th July, 2019 01:41:18 printer

Greek PM concedes defeat as New Democracy near win

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis was greeted warmly at party headquarters

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has conceded defeat in the country's snap general election.

Centre-right opposition party New Democracy, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, are closing in on a dramatic win.

They have 39.7% of the vote so far, with Tsipras's leftist Syriza party in second place with 31.5%.

The current projections would give New Democracy an outright majority, as the winner receives 50 extra seats in parliament.

So far about 60% districts have returned their results.

Speaking as the results became clear, Tsipras confirmed he had called Mitsotakis to offer him his congratulations.

"Today, with our head held high we accept the people's verdict. To bring Greece to where it is today we had to take difficult decisions (with) a heavy political cost," Tsipras told journalists.

Polls closed at 19:00 local time (16:00 GMT) and turnout was about 57%.

Voting is technically compulsory in Greece, but is not enforced. Many residents flocked to the beaches or sheltered at home as temperatures exceeded 35C in places.

What do results say so far?

Early results also predicted that the far-right Golden Dawn party is short of the 3% minimum needed to enter parliament by the narrowest of margins - at 2.98% for now.

The nationalist pro-Russian Greek Solution and MeRA25, the left-wing party of former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, were both projected to just exceed the electoral threshold.

The centre-left Movement for Change is predicted to win 8%, vying with the Communist Party's projected 5.35% share.

Greek media also reported that a ballot box was stolen by an unidentified group which forced its way into one polling station - but there has been no suggestion that the national result would be affected.

What happened to Syriza's support?

Some Syriza party officials seemed to concede defeat to local and international media after the first exit poll emerged.

Prime Minister Tsipras, who swept to power in 2015, called the elections after suffering defeat in the local and European votes in May.

He had toppled New Democracy from power by campaigning against the austerity policies that had affected Greeks for years.

Yet within months, he was forced to accept tough conditions in return for Greece's third international bailout.

Tsipras faced a revolt from within his party as a result - but he responded by calling fresh elections, which he won.

However, his party's popularity was dented as unemployment increased, and Greece's economy shrank.

Mitsotakis has attacked his rival's record, saying that economic improvement was too slow.

He also took advantage of the widespread anger at a landmark deal with North Macedonia over the name of the country - which it shares with a Greek region.

What does New Democracy stand for?

New Democracy has promised to lower taxes and privatise services in the country, which is still feeling the effects of the 2008 financial crisis.

Greece has been in receipt of a series of bailout programmes over the past decade, which it officially "exited" last August as economic growth returned.

But youth unemployment remains high, and New Democracy has counted many 18-24 year olds among its supporters.

The potential new prime minister comes from one of Greece's long-standing political dynasties.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis is the son of the former prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis. His sister, Dora Bakoyannis, was mayor of Athens when the city hosted the Olympics in 2004, before becoming Greek foreign minister.