Greece holds final party rallies ahead of Sunday vote

Greece holds final party rallies ahead of Sunday vote
Greece enters final day of elections as conservative frontrunner Kyriakos Mitsotakis strives to clinch a parliamentary majority amid criticism and warnings from his rival Alexis Tsipras.
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Mitsotakis promises to further cut taxes, increase salaries and bolster public health [Getty]

Greece on Friday entered the final day of campaigning for Sunday's national elections, with conservative frontrunner Kyriakos Mitsotakis aiming to consolidate the gains he made in last month's inconclusive ballot.

This poll is being held under a different system, meaning he stands to gain a larger share of seats in parliament if he repeats - or betters - his May performance, as polls suggest he will.

Mitsotakis, the 55-year-old Harvard graduate seeking a second four-year term, will hold his final rally in Athens' central Syntagma Square in the evening.

Having steered Greece to growth amid global uncertainty, Mitsotakis promises to further cut taxes, increase salaries and bolster public health.

"We have more experience and greater momentum," he told supporters in Thessaloniki on Wednesday.

"This is why I insist that a (robust) New Democracy is the only road ultimately leading to a strong Greece."

Mitsotakis' New Democracy party in May cruised to victory with a score of 40.79 percent, more than 20 points ahead of his nearest rival, former leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

But he fell short of a workable parliamentary majority owing to the last election's proportional representation rules, and declined to form a coalition government.

This election is being held under new rules that give the winner up to 50 bonus seats in parliament, facilitating the formation of a single-party government.

Sunday's result appears to be settled, with polls giving Mitsotakis' New Democracy party a clear majority with between 40 and 45 percent of the vote.

Less certain, however, is whether the conservatives will be able to secure a comfortable majority in the 300-seat parliament, comparable to the 158 seats they won in 2019.

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If eight parties succeed in entering parliament on Sunday - which is a possibility according to the polls - the winner will need a higher percentage of the vote to maximise their parliamentary group in the 300-seat chamber.

New Democracy also need to win at least 40 percent of the vote to secure the full 50-seat bonus.

A new hard-right party, Niki, narrowly missed out on parliamentary seats in May and is now polling near the required 3 percent threshold.

Another new nationalist party, Spartiates, supported by the jailed former spokesman of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn Ilias Kasidiaris, is also polling at over 2 percent.

Mitsotakis on Wednesday went on the offensive in Thessaloniki, the heart of the Greek north where the hard-right movement is at its strongest, to warn supporters against voting for "extreme" parties.

"Many extreme voices in parliament does not necessarily mean plurality, but perhaps the opposite, democratic cacophony," the former premier said.

Mitsotakis has been criticised for warning that a third election could be necessary in August, at the height of the busy tourism season, if a government cannot be formed after Sunday.

Tsipras, who has now lost four ballots to Mitsotakis, including two national elections, has warned that granting the conservatives a strong majority would be the equivalent of a "blank cheque" for a "hidden agenda" of anti-social policies.

"Mitsotakis does not just want to be prime minister. He wants to be a sovereign," Tsipras told Ionian TV this week.

Tsipras' Syriza party is polling at between 16.8 and 20 percent, and his future as leader will likely be in doubt after a fifth loss.

The 48-year-old former leftist prime minister will address supporters in Thessaloniki on Friday.

Born in Athens in 1968, Mitsotakis hails from one of Greece's most influential political families of the last century.

His father, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, was prime minister from 1990 to 1993.

The vote will be conducted in the shadow of a migrant trawler shipwreck on June 14 that claimed at least 82 lives, with hundreds more feared missing and unlikely to be found.

But the tragedy is not expected to heavily influence the election result.