Greek conservatives on course for election win

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-48902766

New Democracy conservative party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is greeted by supporters as he arrives at the party's headquarters in AthensImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis was greeted warmly at party headquarters

Greece’s opposition party New Democracy are set to win the country’s snap general election, early results show.

Led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the centre-right party is projected to defeat Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist Syriza party.

Greece’s interior ministry forecasts 39.8% of the vote for New Democracy, and 31.3% for Syriza.

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

The early projections have been made with 32% of districts reporting, and may change.

Polls closed at 19:00 local time (16:00 GMT), after a day of soaring temperatures which raised concerns about turnout – which is currently predicted to be just above 55%.

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.

Early results also predicted that the far-right Golden Dawn party is short of the the 3% minimum needed to enter parliament by the narrowest of margins – at 2.99% 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 8.27%, vying with the Communist Party’s projected 5.3% 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.

Mr 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.

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Media captionWhy young people have suffered the most from Greeceā€™s economic collapse

Mr 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.

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