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Politics

The Elephant On the Ballot: What if Greece Needs Third Election?

ATHENS – The endless internecine political warfare in Greece brought no real winner in May 21 first elections – with the prospect it could happen again in June 25’s second round and require Greeks going to the polls a third time.

That’s because of an electoral law change brought by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA in its waning days before being routed in July, 2019 snap elections by New Democracy which took power.

The Leftists removed a 50-seat bonus in the 300-member Parliament in a bid to force coalition governments and prevent future single-party governments as the Conservatives had for nearly four years.

New Democracy got 40.79 percent of the vote, more than doubling the 20.07 percent of the rebranded SYRIZA Progressive Alliance of former Premier Alexis Tsipras but fell six votes short of a parliamentary majority.

Then-Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis – as then did SYRIZA and the third-place finisher PASOK-KINAL – spurned chances to try to form coalitions, setting up the second ballot.

While New Democracy is favored to repeat the rout the Conservatives need about 39 percent of the vote, which could be dimmed if six parties – instead f the five that hit the 3 percent threshold needed to get into Parliament qualify.

That could cause the same scenario of Mitsotakis rejecting any idea of a partner and SYRIZA and PASOK mathematically unable to form a coalition, and set up a third ballot and another attempt for single-party rule.

It’s an iffy proposition because the MeRA25 party narrowly missed getting back into Parliament and the ultra-religious Nike party got 2.92 percent of the vote and if one, or both, pass 3 percent it could siphon votes from front-runners.

Compounding the dilemma is that the most likely kingmaker and coalition partner – PASOK – won’t agree because its leader, Nikos Androulakis, said he would refuse to be a partner in any government led by Mitsotakis or Tsipras.

Androulakis’ phone was bugged by the National Intelligence Service EYP, for which Mitsotakis was blamed although the Prime Minister said he didn’t know about it and apologized.

That has left bad blood between them and Androulakis, whose party got 11.46 percent of the vote, doubled down on refusing to agree to take part in a coalition even if the election winner needs only a few seats, he said.

Mitsotakis said he’s anxious that complacency in New Democracy’s expected rerun triumph could hold down the party’s vote – as could June 25 being a beach day and people reluctant to vote or go to their villages or islands a second time to cast ballots at their expense.

If so, a third election would be needed deeper into the summer, with a caretaker government now in position, delaying a government further during the height of tourist season and Mitsotakis saying he wants to come back to accelerate an economic recovery as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

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