Change of government in Greece

Following the victory of the conservative Nea Dimokratia party in the parliamentary elections the new cabinet of the election victor Kyriakos Mitsotakis was sworn in on Tuesday. Europe's media are sceptical about his chances of success and examine how the Greek electoral system influenced Mitsotakis' victory.

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24 Chasa (BG) /

Left-wing Greeks get a conservative government

The conservative majority in parliament is unjust, 24 Chasa criticises:

“The elections in Greece have shown how ironic history can be. The winner is Nea Dimokratia, the conservative neo-liberal party that was responsible for Greece becoming mired in debt. The loser is Syriza, which had to pick up the tab through no fault of its own. If the Greek election system were normal, Nea Dimokratia would now be sitting in the opposition. It received less than 40 percent of the vote, and all the other parties in the parliament are left-wing or centre-left parties. So a normal result would have been 108 seats for Nea Dimokratia and 142 seats for the Left. But since the Greek election system awards the victor 50 additional mandates, the result is actually 158 to 142 seats. That's how the Greeks, most of whom voted for the Left, have ended up with a conservative government.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

No room for a multi-party system

There is a tendency for the electorate to be split between two poles, observes the columnist Xenia Tourki in Phileleftheros:

“Together, Nea Dimokratia and Syriza received more than 70 percent of the votes. The other parties don't seem to be able to break through this front. The expectations raised by the last elections [in 2015] that a multi-party system could be created have not been fulfilled. But this is a trend that exists not only in Greece. We can observe it in many other countries, like Spain and France. … In Greece this bi-polarity emerged from the issue of austerity memoranda. The confrontation between two poles, whatever form it takes, is unlikely to disappear.”

Liberal (GR) /

A tough job for Mitsotakis

The website Liberal dampens expectations, stating that the winners of the election will not have an easy time:

“Nea Dimokratia may have been elected by 40 percent of the voters, but paradoxically despite this high percentage the party's hands are tied when it comes to putting its platform into practice. Nor does it come across as a winner that will be able to roll back the laws introduced by Syriza in the areas of justice, education, health and security. Nea Dimokratia would have more room for manoeuvre if Syriza had stayed at 23 percent or below the psychological threshold of 27 percent. But the situation is different now. Now the party will have to contend with the angry reactions of the parliamentarians, the people on the street and the establishment who benefit from these laws.”

Keskisuomalainen (FI) /

Social peace at risk

According to Keskisuomalainen, Mitsotakis is promising the people too much:

“Despite painful decisions, leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras was surprisingly successful in maintaining social peace in Greece. Now the social rifts could deepen. Many believe that Mitsotakis is not acting in the interests of the poor when he promises a country whose economy is 25 percent smaller than it was before the debt crisis and whose purchasing power has plummeted a period of new growth and tax cuts.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Greeks gasping for breath

The election result should also give the European creditors food for thought, writes De Volkskrant:

“The new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised voters tax cuts and an end to the 'despair' of the austerity measures. The question is how he intends to put this into practice without breaking the European budget regulations or credit terms. It's also unclear what reforms he plans to undertake to make the Greek economy sustainable. ... The blind trust of the voters, who clearly voted with their wallets in mind, leads us to fear the worst. The European creditors must therefore now stop to reflect on whether they shouldn't have given the Greeks a little more breathing space.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

The trap of the good old days

Mitsotakis must begin a new chapter in Greece's history, Hospodářské noviny stresses:

“His election victory conveys the impression that the times of family dynasties could be making a comeback. If the prime minister picks up where his forefathers left off, good times are not to be expected. This is why Mitsotakis stressed in the election campaign that people shouldn't look at his name, but at his CV. His experience in the banking sector and with consultancy firm McKinsey should help Mitsotakis, who studied at Harvard and Stanford, make good on his promises. ... The biggest task will be to make sure that members of his own party aren't hoping that the return of a dynasty means a return to 'the good old days'.”

ABC (ES) /

The end of a misguided adventure

So that's the end of Greece's exploits with the left-wing populists, ABC comments:

“The political adventure with Alexis Tsipras can be summed up in a nutshell: at best Greece has lost four years on a misguided path that has brought it back to where it started off. Tsipras appeared in the political arena during the most profound crisis the Greek economy has ever witnessed with a demagogic and unrealistic - or in other words populist - discourse, making promises no one could fulfil. Spurred on by his quirky economy minister Yanis Varoufakis, he initially focused on making things even worse by challenging the European partners, the only ones willing to help his country, until he finally realised he was heading in the wrong direction.”

Huffington Post Italia (IT) /

Scores have been settled

Roberto Arditti, head of Formiche.net, finds it understandable that the Greeks have had enough of Tsipras:

“It is not the international loans that have consolidated the budget. The famous 280 billion euros (the estimated sum) were made available only temporarily by the financial markets and promptly returned to where they had come from (with hefty and increasingly guaranteed interest rates). The Greek economy got back on its feet via a major manoeuvre to the detriment of incomes and social benefits. It was hence paid for entirely by the Greeks, who are now up to their ears in debt and will be paying off billions in instalments until 2060. This is why in the parliamentary elections scores were simply settled that had been open for four years: Tsipras' lie from the year 2015 has finally received the punishment it deserves.”

TVXS (GR) /

Syriza has survived

The Webportal TVXS welcomes the fact that Syriza, the governing party to date, is by no means defunct:

“The plan to deal the party 'a strategic defeat' has failed. Having won more than 31 percent of the vote, one of the highest results among Europe's opposition parties, it remains the dominant progressive pole in the political system, despite the blows it has suffered over the past four years. ... Alexis Tsipras now faces the challenge of founding a new, better organised and stronger party with modern structures that can represent the political spectrum ranging from social democracy to the radical left. Syriza must reconstitute itself immediately if it is to challenge the neoliberal programme of Nea Dimokratia.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Well roared, lion

The new government won't have much financial leeway, Die Presse notes:

“Mitsotakis is promising a lot again. He wants to press ahead with privatisation, lower taxes to take pressure off the middle class, and fight unemployment. Well roared, lion, but we'll see what comes of them. But the foreign creditors will hardly allow the most debt-ridden state in the Eurozone to relax its austerity policy. Too many times have they seen free-spending governments manoeuvre Greece into bankruptcy. So let's wait and see what Mr Mitsotakis is really able to put together in this difficult situation.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Still not a modern country

Nea Dimokratia's victory doesn't necessarily portend a brighter future for the country, says Dagens Nyheter:

“The current party leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, studied at Harvard and tries to distance himself from the old bad habits of his party. At the same time he needs to keep the right wing happy. And even if he does start cutting taxes, investments in Greece are by no means guaranteed without debt soaring once more. Tax evasion is a national sport. The pensions system is too expensive. Greece has a long way to go before it qualifies as a modern European country.”