Greece heads to snap polls after ruling party’s defeat in European elections

Greece is heading to early national elections after the ruling left-wing SYRIZA party’s defeat by the conservatives by a wide margin in both European Parliament and local elections on Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced.

In a statement broadcast live on national broadcaster ERT after the release of the first official results, Tsipras said he will visit the Greek president to start the procedures after the second round of local elections on June 2.

“We courageously asked the Greek people for their confidence in our plan for relief measures and the restructuring of society and the country. Although the electoral result solidified SYRIZA’s position as a leading actor in politics, it does not meet our expectations. People have the final verdict,” he said.

Under the Greek constitution, following the Greek prime minister’s visit to the president, the parliament would be dissolved and elections would be held within three weeks.

Although Tsipras did not mention on Sunday night the date for elections, political analysts estimate that it would be most likely in late June.

Shortly before Tsipras’s televised statement, ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis had requested early elections.

“The change I had been talking throughout the pre-election campaign has already started. Greece needs a new government. The prime minister must assume his responsibilities. He should resign and the country must be led to national elections as soon as possible,” he said.

A similar call was made by Fofi Gennimata, leader of the centrist Movement for Change (KINAL), which ranks the third with 7.2 percent of votes, according to the official results so far.

According to the latest official results released by the Greece’s Interior Ministry, with 34 percent of the vote counted, the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party wins the European Parliament elections with 33.8 percent of the vote (and 7 seats out of a total of 21 allocated to Greece) against 24 percent(6 seats) for the ruling radical left SYRIZA party.

Six parties will most probably send representatives to the European Parliament, clearing the three percent threshold needed under Greece’s electoral law.

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) ranks fourth with 5.7 percent of the vote and the ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) garners 4.9 percent. A new right-wing party, the Greek Solution, wins 4 percent.

According to official results so far, candidates supported by the main opposition win or have a clear lead in most of the 13 regions and 325 municipalities contested across Greece.

In the two main contests in the local elections for the posts of the regional governor of Attica and the mayor of the municipality of Athens, ND candidates Giorgos Patoulis and Costas Bakogiannis respectively hold large leads over the SYRIZA-backed candidates, the incumbent Rena Dourou and Nassos Iliopoulos.

The two battles in the region of Attica and the city of Athens hold traditionally a special significance in elections in Greece, since approximately half of the country’s population live in the capital and its suburbs.

The official results for the European Parliament elections and the first round of local elections are expected Monday, but the message seems clear.

“If you take a look at the entire European map, SYRIZA with this percentage, is maybe the largest party of the European left. However, we cannot ignore reality,” Dimitris Papadimoulis, who is reelected member of the European Parliament with SYRIZA told media outside the party’s headquarters in Athens on Sunday.