The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyzes developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. Dr. Tomi Dimitrovski is a former Macedonian Ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia (2014-2018) and former Consul General in Thessaloniki, Republic of Greece (2007-2014). In his article titled “2023 Parliamentary Elections in Greece: Mitsotakis- Historic Chance to Become Most Successful Prime Minister in Past Several Decades”, he analyzes the current developments in Greece in the context of new parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on 25 June 2023. We bring his article in full.
You read well. However, the date on the calendar is 9 September 1993. At the time, the already removed Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonis Samaras separated from the New Democracy party and enticed several of his former colleagues (members of Greek Parliament) to a newly formed party (Political Spring). By doing so he left Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis (father of the current President of the party Kyriakos Mitsotakis) without the required parliamentary majority. The Parliament was dissolved, and in October of the same year Mitsotakis senior lost the parliamentary elections. Samaras did not agree with the soft stance taken by Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis regarding the Greek northern neighbor. It was said that Mitsotakis, in accord with the then Macedonian President, Kiro Gligorov, was ready to recognize the Greek northern neighbor under the name of North Macedonia. Why is this important?
Despite the complex relations, the current President of the New Democracy political party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has managed to preserve the unity of the party. In major Greek political parties, there are always factions gathered around former leaders. However, this time former (party) Presidents and Prime Ministers Konstantinos Karamanlis and Antonis Samaras (who after several years returned to his home party) strongly back leader Mitsotakis. They have appeared (in minor roles) also in the current campaign, which was still sufficient to convey the message of unity in the party.
This (the capability to maintain good relations with former presidents) is one of the attributes of Mitsotakis, who has grown into an indisputable leader of the party with enormous support of members and sympathizers. However, in the past, at the beginning of his career, Mitsotakis was just a member of Parliament, while his sister Dora Bakoyannis was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. She was also in contention for the position of the President of the party. Many had doubts regarding Kyriakos’s capabilities, but he has refuted them all as the Greek Prime Minister. His sister also admitted this in a TV appearance.
At the next elections the old-new modified election model of “Reinforced proportional representation” will be in force. Namely, the party that wins the largest number of votes in percentages will be granted an additional number (bonus) of mandates in the Parliament. There are high chances that the New Democracy will win more than 40% of votes and thus win the maximum possible bonus mandates (50). This means it is possible to get between 157 and 163 mandates in the Parliament, and thus establish independently of others the next government (which requires support of 151 representative). Currently the state is run by a caretaker government headed by Judge Joannis Sarmas, since nobody had tried to establish the government after the elections in May this year.
The New Democracy has obviously managed to overcome an unfavorable period for the party caused by the tapping affair (concerning the leader of the PASOK party Nikos Androulakis and several reporters), and the tragic railway accident involving numerous casualties in the Tempi area. However, according to analyses of several relevant financial institutions from abroad, the economic indicators of the country are constantly improving.
The left-oriented SIRIZA party will win around 20% of votes or around 55 representatives. PASOK (member of the Party of European Socialists -PES) will get around 11%, which is around 30 representatives. It is followed by the Communist Party with around 7% of the votes and somewhat under 20 representatives.
The next Greek parliament will most likely consist of seven parties. According to the polls, the Eliniki Lisi party /Greek Solution/, Niki /Victory/ and Plevsi Eleftherias /Course of Freedom/ will pass the 3% threshold and it is possible that each of them will win at least 10 representatives in the new convocation of the Parliament. In the context of Greece, having seven parliamentarian parties means that a relatively high number of parties had won a place in the highest legislative body of the country. If the parties that win a smaller number of mandates than the winning party increase their percentage share in the Parliament, the number of representatives of the best ranking party will decrease.
Here again Mitsotakis and the New Democracy are unmatchable. In the campaign, Mitsotakis frequently appears flawlessly dressed in an elegant white shirt (when the protocol allows) with rolled up sleeves for the meetings with citizens. His approach is also rather specific. In smaller electorates there is no usual cliché involving a large stage and politicians in suits. Before holding his speech, Mitsotakis greets the gathered and moves through the mass towards the center of the crowd where there is a minimum elevation in the form of a podium from which he addresses the audience. All this is followed with exceptional decorations consisting of sky-blue Greek and party flags (blue is also the color of the flag of New Democracy) followed by sounds of horns. The atmosphere at the rallies of New Democracy is victorious and relaxed. Mitsotakis’s main aim is to win the trust of the voters to the extent that would enable him to independently establish the government.
Mitsotakis is also a media favorite. He is ubiquitous. In his campaign a special emphasis is put on the youth. As a result, he is rather active on the Tik Tok platform.
In its campaign, SIRIZA is striving to maintain the positions won at the May elections. Seemingly, the question that hovers is whether Alexsis Tsipras will remain at the helm of the party after the upcoming elections. Maybe it is due to the major media’s favoring of the New Democracy party, but other major parties, SIRIZA and PASOK, somehow do not rise to the fore in this campaign.
The issue is not naïve at all. Greece is a Mediterranean country. The season of visits to wonderful Greek sand beaches and warm sea has begun. In Greece, there is a custom of one-day visits to the beach and swimming in the sea. This is combined with cold coffee, Greek gastro-specialties, enjoyed in a shade by the sea. The three major cities, as well as numerous smaller ones, are surrounded by endless sandy beaches engulfed by the warm sea. All the above is a challenge primarily for the New Democracy. Namely, it has to motivate the voters to resist the wonderful beaches, seas and gastronomic pleasures for at least a part of the day and go to the polling stations.
This is even more important bearing in mind that the polls indicate that, as already noted, it is possible that the new convocation of the Greek Parliament will consist of seven, and maybe even eight parties. A low turnout of voters combined with an increased percentage of votes among other parties can easily diminish the election results of New Democracy to 149 representatives. Mitsotakis underlines that if this time the party does not manage to establish the government on its own, the country will have to have new third consecutive elections in late Aust. The New Democracy does not want a coalition government, as Greece does not have good experience with coalition governments. For the time being, polls indicate that the party will be successful in the upcoming elections. Hence, on 25 June, late it in the evening, it will announce that it shall establish a new Greek government on its own.
As for the wonderful Greek beaches, it is worth noting that the high tourist season is just about to start. The number of bookings for this season suggests that there is a high chance for Greece to break its own record in the number of foreign tourists. All this would be to the advantage of the New Democracy, as under its rule, and after the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism in the country expanded.
Greece, as a country from the region, which is a European Union member of many years, faces a major challenge. The minimum salary is still low (in comparison to the European average). However, in his post on Tik Tok, which is obviously aimed at the younger voters, Mitsotakis promised further growth of the minimum salary. Anyway, the previous New Democracy-led government had increased the minimum salary by 20%.
Greece is no longer a problematic member of the Eurozone. The country has agreed favorable terms with international creditors. Macroeconomic indicators of the country are solid. Let’s not forget that Greece is one of the oldest members of the EU and Eurozone. Hence, it still has a long way to go.
Currently, the relations with the old-new President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are currently not in a major crisis. However, they have never been perfect either. These relations have always been challenging. Mitsotakis accused the General Consulate of Türkiye in Komotini (an area inhabited by many Muslim voters) of interfering in the election process in June in favor of the SIRIZA party. The vast reserves of natural gas in the Southern Mediterranean are a point of interest. Türkiye is also interested in them, which makes the situation complex.
Prespa Agreement. Mitsotakis approached this issue as well with great wisdom. Although Greece made no major steps forward since it withdrew its veto over the integration of its northern neighbor into NATO and EU, the relations are now in a more relaxed phase. Unlike his two predecessors, Mitsotakis pursues a more moderate stance.
Relations with Albanian and the Greek minority in the country. At the recently held local elections in Albania a conflict situation emerged when the Albanian police arrested a candidate (from the Greek minority) for a mayor position on accusations of voter bribery. The then Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias promptly responded. The situation calmed down. All this came as an additional argument and points in favor of New Democracy.
Although Greece is a member of the Schengen Zone, its only EU neighbor with which it shares a land border is the Republic of Bulgaria. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement of cooperation between the two countries. The pending membership of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen Zone will also be of benefit to Greece, as it will enable Greece to have a land connection with the rest of the Schengen Zone.
However, the main corridor for land transport of goods goes through Skopje and Belgrade. This natural corridor for transport of people and goods has been in existence for a few decades, and shall remain as such in the future as well. Further integration of two Greek northern neighbors, as well as the Western Balkans as a whole, into the European Union is a challenge for Greece as well. Cooperation with the Open Balkan regional initiative is possible in the near future.
Greece traditionally cultivates excellent relations with Belgrade. However, a majority of EU member countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Relations between Athens and Pristina in the context of simultaneous preservation of good relations with Belgrade constitute a major challenge for the Greek diplomacy.
Relations with the US are currently at the highest possible level. They will continuously be deepened in the area of defense and energy. The liquefied natural gas terminal in Alexandroupolis should commence operation in December 2023. Through the terminal the LNG will be transported from the US and Middle East to the South East Europe region. There is no doubt that, in this turbulent region, Greece is currently the most reliable and stable partner of the United States. And, not to forget, the first delivery of 5th generation F35 aircrafts has been confirmed and will arrive to Greece in 2028. Speaking of strategic partnerships in the region, will anyone else get advanced technology such as the F35 aircrafts?
However, economy is the key argument of the previous government, (not the caretaker government, but the previous political Mitstotakis’s government). Continuation of the successful trend of growth of macroeconomic indicators will be the main goal of the new government in the next period as well. And, naturally, as well as foreign investments, such as the impressive investment in the Ellinikon Park, which will enrich the offer of the Athens Riviera. They gladly emphasize that, currently, this is actually the largest costal project in Europe.
If Mitsotakis manages to succeed in all the above mentioned, he will come out as the most successful President of his party and Prime Minister of Greece in the past several decades. Furthermore, the New Democracy proudly accentuates that currently it is actually the largest party (in the context of percentages of votes won at the central and local level) in the European People’s Party (EPP) family.
About the author:
Dr. Tomi Dimitrovski is a former Macedonian Ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia (2014-2018) and former Consul General in Thessaloniki, Republic of Greece (2007-2014). Tomi Dimitrovski holds a PhD (University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, 2018). He teaches Strategic management of healthcare organizations at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, and Healthcare management at the CITY College, University of York Europe Campus in Thessaloniki, Republic of Greece.
The article presents the stance of the author and does not necessarily reflect the stance of IFIMES.
Ljubljana/Skopje 22 June 2023
 IFIMES – The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)/UN since 2018.It is also the publisher of the international scientific journal European Perspectives.