As expected, Greek voters have ended the tenure of their radical left prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and returned to the centre-right New Democracy, which will govern with a clear majority.
Near-final figures show New Democracy with 39.9% of the vote, up 11.8% on four years ago. Tsipras’s Syriza has 31.5%, down 3.9% but a good recovery from its score of 23.8% in May’s European parliament election. It’s also noticeably better than predicted by the opinion polls, which had consistently put it under 30%.
Six parties will have seats in the new parliament, not seven as anticipated in my preview on Friday. The one to miss out is the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which shot to world notoriety with its third-place finish in both elections of 2015, but yesterday dropped 4.1% to 2.9%, just below the 3% minimum threshold.
The far right, as distinct from the extreme right, will still be represented: ANEL, which won 3.7% last time, has disappeared, but its vote has shifted unchanged to the new party Greek Solution. Also new is the far-left party of game theorist and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, MeRA25, which just cleared the threshold with 3.4%.
Completing the picture are the centre-left alliance Movement for Change on 8.1% (up 1.8%) and the unreconstructed Greek Communist Party with 5.3% (down 0.3%). Two centrist parties from the previous parliament have dropped out – The River (Potami) has disintegrated, and the Union of Centrists could manage only 1.2%, down 2.3% and behind yet another far-left party, Course of Freedom, on 1.5%.
For all the attention that Golden Dawn has got over recent years, the real story in Greece is the extraordinary strength and diversity of its radical left and extreme left – a description that fits six of the 12 biggest parties, including three of the six that won seats.
While the centre-left won only 8.1%, the mass of parties to its left won about 43.2% in aggregate. The majority of the electorate is on the left, and to an extent almost unchanged from 2015; the difference is that the vote on the rest of the spectrum has concentrated with New Democracy, at the expense of both extreme right and centre.
Greece’s electoral system, however, makes short work of such subtleties. The centre-right will win 108 of the 250 seats up for election plus a bonus allocation of 50 seats for coming first, for a total 158 out of 300. Syriza will have 86, the centre-left 22, and the three small parties will share the remaining 34.
So New Democracy’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis, himself the son of a former prime minister, will not have to worry about coalition partners. Nonetheless, the headlines of a “landslide” are at best misleading; if the various left-of-centre parties were somehow able to overcome their differences and unite behind a single ticket, they could have won a majority.
Tsipras had already legislated to abolish the winner’s bonus for next election, and on yesterday’s figures New Democracy would have been in a great deal of trouble without it; the four parties ranging from centre-left to extreme left won 132 of the 250 elected seats between them. But the chance of them all co-operating in government, or indeed in anything else, seems remote.
It’s also worth noting that turnout, which plunged to a record low of 56.6% in 2015 as Greeks went to the polls for the third time in a year, has recovered only slightly, sitting on 57.9%. Some reports suggest that the high temperatures at the weekend had made the beach more inviting.