Greek PM Mitsotakis rejects coalition government as he guns for outright victory in second vote

ATHENS – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday that he will not seek to form a coalition government following the weekend’s election, paving the way for a second vote in June that he hopes his conservative party will win outright.

New Democracy won 40.8 per cent of the vote versus 20.1 per cent for the leftist Syriza, in a stunning boost for Mr Mitsotakis, who has had to deal with a wiretapping scandal, the Covid-19 pandemic, a cost of living crisis and a deadly rail crash that enraged the public.

But the conservative party fell short of the number of seats needed to govern on its own, triggering a round of coalition talks among the three biggest parties.

While each party, including the Socialist Pasok, is due to receive the three-day mandate to try to form a coalition, none of them have enough seats to form a ruling alliance, paving the way for the appointment of a caretaker government to take the country to a new vote as early as June 25.

“I intend to return the exploratory mandate to you this afternoon, so that we can proceed to new elections,” Mr Mitsotakis told President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, after she formally offered him the chance to form a coalition government. “I believe the country needs a strong and stable government today, with a four-year term prospect, and the sooner this issue is closed, the better it will be for the country.”

Greek shares jumped on Monday and banks outperformed, gaining nearly 15 per cent.

Greek bond prices also outperformed their peers on Monday as investors reckoned the outcome of the election was unlikely to lead to a deviation from the current fiscal discipline.

Mr Mitsotakis has said his sights are set on the second ballot, which will take place under a system of semi-proportional representation, with a sliding scale seat bonus, increasing the chances of an outright win for his party. All parties are eligible to run again.

Mr Mitsotakis told President Sakellaropoulou he would return the mandate within the day.

Syriza, the party of former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, is next in line to receive the mandate, followed by Pasok.

“I understand that there is no scope for convergences or collaboration,” Pasok spokesman Dimitris Mantzos told state broadcaster ERT on Monday. “I think we can proceed to the second elections.”

Once each party has returned or exhausted its three-day mandate to attempt to form a coalition, the president can then appoint a caretaker government, leading to a new election date.

Analysts have pointed to New Democracy’s double-digit lead over Syriza as well as the increase in its share of votes from the 2019 election as a measure of its success.

“The result of (Sunday’s) vote leaves no room for a rival coalition to be formed,” said Dr Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence. REUTERS

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