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Voting underway in general election second-round in Greece

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Greeks have started voting in the second general election in five weeks with conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis expected to win re-election by a large margin.

The leaders of two of the main parties in cast their votes early on Sunday. 

Three hundred seats are up for grabs and polls are due to close at 1800 CET.

No party achieved an overall majority in the first round of voting on May 21.

The ruling New Democracy Party won 40.79% of the vote (146 seats), the main opposition party Syriza, took 20.07% (71 seats), and the socialist PASOK party came third. 

But if observers are right, Conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, 55, is set to win a second term as prime minister with his New Democracy party, especially as under a new electoral system he will benefit from a bonus of 25-50 seats given to the winning party, depending on its performance. 

“We are voting so people can have a stable government for the next four years,” Mitsotakis said after voting in northern Athens. “I am sure that Greeks will vote with maturity for their personal prosperity and the country’s stability.”

His main rival is Alexis Tsipras, 48, who leads the left-wing Syriza party and served as prime minister from 2015 to 2019 – some of the most turbulent years of Greece’s nearly decade-long financial crisis.

Tsipras fared dismally in the May elections, coming a distant second, 20 percentage points behind New Democracy. He has since been trying to rally his voter base, a task complicated by splinter parties formed by some of his former associates.

Speaking after voting in a western Athens neighbourhood, Tsipras seemed to accept his party would be in opposition for the next four years.

“This crucial election is not only determining who will govern the country, it is determining our lives for the next four years, it is determining the quality of our democracy,” Tsipras said. “It is determining whether we will have an unchecked government or a strong opposition. This role can only be played by Syriza.”

New kids on the block

A number of smaller parties could also affect the result if they reach the 3% threshold needed to qualify. 

They include Plefsi Eleftherias (Freedom Sailing), the party of Zoe Konstantpoulou who was the president of the Hellenic Parliament for six months in 2015 when Syriza came to power for the first time.

Her party is one of the ‘splinters’ referred to by Tsipras and could take votes from Syriza. 

And there is the conservative Niki (Victory) party, led by Dimitris Natsios, a theologist with strong bonds to the Orthodox Church

Another contender is Spartiates (Spartans), the far-right party headed by Ilias Kasidiaris, an ex-Golden Dawn (banned neo nazi party) member who’s still in jail.

Migrant shipwreck disaster

Sunday’s vote comes after hundreds of migrants died and went missing in southern Greece when an overcrowded fishing trawler heading from Libya to Italy capsized and sank.

The shipwreck drew criticism over how Greek authorities handled the rescue, as well as over the country’s restrictive migration policy.

But the disaster, one of the worst in the Mediterranean in recent years, has done little to dent Mitsotakis’ 20-point lead in opinion polls over Tsipras, with the economy at the forefront of most voters’ concerns. 

As Greece gradually recovers from its brutal financial crisis, voters appear happy to return to power a prime minister who delivered economic growth and lowered unemployment.

Euronews will bring you more on the election after polls close at 1800 CET

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