Greece's New Democracy Party Faces Setback in Regional Elections

Kyriakos Mitsotakis SYRIZA

Greece's ruling New Democracy party encountered a setback in the runoff elections held on Sunday, where they lost the two largest cities in the country and five out of six regional contests.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had set a goal to secure victory in all 13 regions, in addition to the cities of Athens, Thessaloniki, and Piraeus, which he called "13 plus 3."

Initially, the first round of elections last Sunday seemed to strengthen New Democracy's political dominance, as their endorsed candidates triumphed in all seven regions and secured Piraeus as well. Notably, they even supported incumbents in Piraeus and the region of Crete, with whom they had clashed during the previous local elections in 2019.

However, in Sunday's runoff, voters who turned out delivered a reality check to New Democracy's earlier triumphalism. Prime Minister Mitsotakis admitted, "It was not an especially good night for New Democracy," acknowledging a shift from his more optimistic tone during the first round on October 8.

One of the most striking upsets occurred in the capital city of Athens, where Haris Doukas, a socialist-backed academic and political newcomer, defeated the incumbent Kostas Bakoyannis with nearly 56% of the vote. This result was particularly surprising since Bakoyannis had garnered over 41% in the first round, just shy of the 43% threshold needed for an outright victory. Bakoyannis is also the nephew of Mitsotakis, and his mother, Dora Bakoyannis, a New Democracy lawmaker and former minister, served as the mayor of Athens from 2003 to 2007.

Turnout in Athens was even lower in the runoff, at just 26.7% of eligible voters, compared to 32.3% the previous Sunday. Across the country, turnout was 40.7% for the 84 municipal contests and 35.1% for the six regional elections, a decline from the first round on October 8 when turnout for both types of contests was 52.5%.

Another significant outcome was observed in the region of Thessaly, where the New Democracy-backed incumbent governor, Kostas Agorastos, suffered a substantial defeat, with a 40% to 60% margin, to Dimitris Kouretas, supported by both the socialist PASOK and left-wing Syriza parties. Before the disastrous floods that struck the region in September, Agorastos had been considered a sure bet for a fourth consecutive term. This result represented a repudiation of his leadership and the central government's handling of the emergency, as Premier Mitsotakis had campaigned for Agorastos in the days leading up to the runoff.

In the city of Thessaloniki, socialist Stelios Angeloudis, who was not his party's official candidate due to internal strife among local party officials, easily defeated incumbent Konstantinos Zervas with a 67% to 33% margin.

Apart from Thessaly, New Democracy lost four other regional contests to conservative dissidents, with only one incumbent securing victory. The party's sole success on Sunday was in the Peloponnese region. Nevertheless, New Democracy had already secured victory in the country's two most populous regions, Attica and Central Macedonia, during the first round.

Despite this setback, New Democracy remains the dominant party, with Syriza and PASOK trailing behind, competing for dominance on the centre-left and showing little inclination to unite against the conservatives.

While national elections are not due until 2027, the upcoming European Parliament elections on June 9 of next year will be a significant test of the government's popularity.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024