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Politics

Hot Spring Coming in Greece, Elections Loom, Campaign Begins

ATHENS – After months of shadow boxing between them, the ruling New Democracy Conservatives in Greece are girding for a spring showdown with their major rivals – the party ousted in 2019 snap polls – the newly rebranded SYRIZA Progressive Alliance.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis then routed his rival, Alexis Tsipras, who has in recent months been taking more shots at the government over a series of issues, from the economy to the waning COVID-19 pandemic and a spyware scandal.

After playing coy and insisting he would serve out his term to July, Mitsotakis now said the 2023 elections will take place in the spring but declined to say whether they will come just before the April 16 Easter date when many Greeks are at their villages, and voting places, or in May.

It promises to be a fierce battle with a new catalyst, the rising PASOK-KINAL Movement for Change center-left dominated led by Member of the European Parliament Nikos Androulakis, who has doubled its support.

He was targeted by the National Intelligence Service EYP which admitted listening in on his phone conversations but Mitsotakis denied his government was behind an attempt to put Predator spyware on Androulakis’ cell phone.

SYRIZA – which was called the Radical Left while in power for 4 ½ years, during which Tsipras imposed more austerity to get a third bailout of 86 billion euros ($93.06 billion) – has intensified attacks on Mitsotakis.

Androulakis has become more aggressive in his criticism of the government as well but a change in election law by SYRIZA in its dying days will make it unlikely for any party to win enough of the vote to take power.

SYRIZA removed a 50-seat bonus for the first place finisher which means even if New Democracy prevails it most certainly won’t have enough seats in the 300-member Parliament to have a majority, unless getting a coalition partner.

Mitsotakis said he doesn’t want a hybrid government that could create an odd couple such as a former New Democracy-PASOK administration that also imposed austerity that was the downfall of the Socialists.’

That would require a second ballot, with an interim government in place in the meantime, but New Democracy amended the law to give the first-place finish in another round a 30-seat Parliament bonus.

“From April and onwards, the elections can be held at any time,” he told local newspaper Proto Thema in an interview, which would put them ahead of June 18 elections in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also faces a challenge even while threatening to invade Greece.

“Since this date corresponds with summer holiday season when people are traveling, we are evaluating bringing the date slightly forward,” ruling AK Party spokesperson Omer Celik said, which could make it coincide with Greece.

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ATHENS - Almost nine years after being on the brink of being pushed out of the Eurozone and its economy shrinking 25 percent, Greece’s unlikely comeback is continuing, with a 3 percent growth forecast for 2024.

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