Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday turned down a mandate to form a coalition government, saying he was preparing for a second election in June after what he called a “painful” electoral defeat for his Syriza party.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose New Democracy party won 40.8% of the vote on Sunday compared with Syriza’s 20.1%, had earlier opted against forming a coalition and has pushed for a second vote in a bid for an outright majority.
Tsipras told President Katerina Sakellaropoulou that he could not form a coalition, after many voters turned away from Syriza’s radical, anti-establishment style that had swept it to power during the turbulent years of the Greek debt crisis.
“I have no reason to hide that the electoral result is a painful shock, it was unexpected,” Tsipras said outside the presidential mansion. “I take full responsibility for this result, but in my dictionary that means standing and fighting.”
A second vote is scheduled for June 25, when a system of bonus votes for the winning party comes into play that could hand Mitsotakis’ party a majority in parliament to govern alone.
Opposition parties do not have enough seats to form a ruling alliance without involving New Democracy. All party leaders have indicated they will not hold exploratory talks.
Tsipras said in a televised statement that Syriza’s primary responsibility was to “prevent the prospects of an almighty and uncontrollable ruler-prime minister” and ensure the presence of the left in Greece’s political landscape.
Before the election, Mitsotakis told Reuters he wanted to ensure his party secured a comfortable majority, saying “experience has taught us in Greece that one party governments are much more stable than coalition governments.”
The defeat of Syriza, which called the second vote a “final battle”, has revealed a split in the left. Two small leftist parties, set up by former Syriza members, did not secure enough votes to make it into parliament.
Before the first vote, Syriza tried to persuade the Socialist PASOK party, which finished third on Sunday, and leftist parties, including the Communist KKE, to back it in a coalition government.
After its defeat, Syriza accused them of turning their back on efforts to form an alliance against the conservatives.
PASOK will still formally be handed a mandate to form a coalition government before the president appoints a caretaker government that will lead Greece to a second vote.
Under electoral rules, the winner of a second vote following an inconclusive first election receives 20 bonus seats in parliament if they get 25% of the vote, and up to 50 bonus seats if they get about 40%. If Mitsotakis secured 40% of the vote again or even a little less, he would still have a majority.
To benefit from bonus seats, he needs to stay the biggest party, but that seems likely given his nearest rival Syriza secured 20.1%. The total seats Mitsotakis secures will, however, depend on how many other parties make it into parliament.