PGI INSIGHT: Greece – Conservatives expected to make major gains in July election

- In-depth insight - Intelligence

25-06-2019


  • The conservative New Democracy party in Greece is likely to win the most seats and could secure an outright majority in a snap election scheduled for 7 July.
  • If successful, the party is likely to push for less regulation, though these policies are likely to prove controversial.

The conservative New Democracy party is likely to make significant gains in a general election on 7 July. New Democracy won 33.9 percent of the vote in the EU elections on 27 May and is polling above 34 percent of the vote for the general election. Support for New Democracy has increased significantly in the weeks ahead of the vote. Polls from May and June indicate a growing lead by New Democracy over the leftist ruling party SYRIZA. With the help of a majority bonus system which grants the top party an extra 50 seats, the party may even reach an outright majority of 151 seats.

The SYRIZA government under President Alexis Tsipras has become increasingly unpopular amid slow economic recovery and a series of political compromises since it came to power in 2015. Notably, the government has approved unpopular EU-backed austerity measures and signed a controversial name agreement with North Macedonia in June 2018.

New Democracy government prospects

If his party wins a majority, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has promised a series of business-friendly measures to accelerate the country’s economic recovery. Measures discussed include possible VAT decreases and tax relief in 2020. However, Mitsotakis has been careful not to threaten the public sector, which is considered a red line for many Greeks. In an interview he called for a reduction in state expenditures without threatening pensions.

The extent to which any New Democracy government will be able to introduce favourable regulations is unclear. Depending on the composition of the parliament, Mitsotakis might have a difficult time getting opponents to support his plans. SYRIZA and the Community Party are likely to strongly oppose any measures offering private businesses contracts at the expense of the public sector.

Shift in far-right parties

The vote is unlikely to see any major far-right surge as has been observed in other European countries. The far-right party Golden Dawn lost two seats in the EU vote and polls indicate that it will lose representation in parliament. Other right-wing parties were also unsuccessful in the elections. Right-wing Independent Greeks, headed by former defence minister Panos Kammenos, won 0.8 percent of the vote. However, the newly formed Greek Solution party got two seats in the EU elections, likely because of its opposition to the North Macedonia agreement.

Role of social media

Social media is likely to play a prominent role ahead of the elections. Surveys indicate that Greeks rely heavily on social media for news. The Digital News Report by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute found that 58 percent of Greeks use Facebook to share and discuss news and 67 percent use social media for news.

However, there is little risk that the misuse of social media have a significant impact on public opinion during campaigning. Amid an environment of false reporting, Greek voters tend to treat any media reports with a strong degree of scepticism. The Oxford study found that only one third of Greeks trust the media they use.

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