Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras lost to New Democracy’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the snap election on Sunday. Here’s what you need to know about the conservative leader, who is set to become the country’s new prime minister.
Greeks went to the polls on Sunday to elect politicians to fill the 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament. The opposition conservatives New Democracy won by a landslide (39.85 percent of the votes and 158 seats with all of the votes counted, more than doubling the 75 seats the party won in the 2015 election).
In comparison, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s populist left-wing Syriza was able to garner 31.53 percent of the votes, earning only 86 seats in parliament. Syriza had 145 seats in Parliament after the 2015 election.
The Prime Minister-elect Kyriakos Mitsotakis went on television, predictably, to promise Greeks change.
"I am committed to fewer taxes, many investments, for good and new jobs, and growth which will bring better salaries and higher pensions in an efficient state," he said in his address.
Mitsotakis is no stranger to politics, coming from a family deeply entrenched in it. He is the youngest of four children of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who served Greece from 1990 to 1993 and who himself comes from a family of politicians.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s sister Dora Bakoyannis is also a political figure, who has served as mayor of Athens, then as a foreign minister. Moreover, Mitsotakis’s nephew and Bakoyannis’s son Kostas was elected in June to become the mayor of Athens in September.
That being said, Mitsotakis believes his family’s past and connections have no positive bearing on his electability. In an interview with the Associated Press before the election, he said “I’m very proud of my family legacy but I don’t think you’ll find many people who say they’re voting for me because I’m the son of an ex-prime minister.”
Rivalry with Tsipras
Mitsotakis was part of Greece’s 2012-2014 crisis government, while New Democracy was in coalition with the Greek socialists. Tsipras has accused him of “disastrous” mismanagement that resulted in failed businesses and dire job losses numbering in the hundreds of thousands, as well as keeping far-right officials in senior party posts.
Even though Tsipras reduced unemployment and raised the minimum wage, he lost popularity when he caved into the European Union’s demands of economic cutbacks following the third bailout despite promising he would be anti-austerity.
Tsipras further fell out of favour when he paved the way to an agreement with North Macedonia about the country’s name (which used to be Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM for short). Voters, especially Greek nationalists, felt like his compromise was leading the way to what they saw as the expansionist policies of North Macedonia.
According to Mitsotakis, Tsipras is a populist who over-promised and under-delivered. In the same interview with AP before the election, Mitsotakis predicted his rival’s defeat.
“The only thing [Tsipras is] doing is trying to portray us as the big, bad neoliberals who are coming to power to suck people’s blood, or whatever,” he said. “It doesn’t resonate with anyone. It’s so yesterday.”
What the future holds
Greece has gone through one of its biggest crises since WWII, seeking bailouts from the European Central Bank amidst a shrinking economy and increasing unemployment.
Greece’s creditors asked for and got severe cutbacks from Athens, who buckled under the stress of protests and street riots blaming political parties for their predicament.
“As many mistakes as we made, there were also lots of mistakes made by our creditors,” said Mitsotakis. “We want to leave this period behind us.”
“I want to make Greece a normal European country,” Mitsotakis told the AP. “I’m sick and tired of us being treated as the poster boy for the crisis.”
The election results show he’s not the only one who feels this way.