NewsWorldSenior judge leads Greek caretaker government until fresh June 25 election

Senior judge leads Greek caretaker government until fresh June 25 election

Greece will hold fresh elections on June 25, with the country led by a caretaker government headed by senior judge Ioannis Sarmas, 66, until the vote following an inconclusive ballot last weekend.

Sarmas, to be sworn in later on Thursday, will replace the outgoing prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose centre-right New Democracy party triumphed over the leftist opposition in Sunday’s poll but failed to secure a parliamentary majority.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou nominated Sarmas to head the interim administration from Thursday, saying the political deadlock produced by Sunday’s election had been impossible to resolve.

“I have called you because … at today’s meeting of political leaders the impossibility of forming a government was formally established,” she told Sarmas after convening all five party heads, catapulted into the 300-seat House, in one last effort to break the logjam. “And so now we’re at the last solution [provided by] the constitution which foresees the formation of a caretaker government.”

A father-of-two born on the island of Kos, Sarmas has presided over the Hellenic court of audit, one of the country’s oldest institutions, since 2019. Trained in Athens and Paris, where he specialised in public finance and did his doctoral thesis, Sarmas is part of a long line of non-partisan judicial experts appointed to head caretaker governments in Greece.

“It is a great honour, a constitutional obligation and my duty as a citizen to accept this responsibility,” he said when officially informed by the Greek president of his nomination to the post on Wednesday.

The appointment of Sarmas followed two days of political manoeuvring in which Mitsotakis, the leftwing Syriza leader, Aléxis Tsípras, and Nikos Androulakis, head of the centre-left Pasok, were, as the ballot’s forerunners, handed mandates to form a government.

The incumbent New Democracy garnered 40.8% of the vote – more than double that achieved by Syriza and narrowly improving its performance four years ago – but failed under an electoral system of proportional representation to win outright.

The scale of the victory on the heels of a spy scandal, a fatal train crash and uproar over heavy-handed migration policies took many by surprise.

Returning the mandate, Mitsotakis said his aim was to create a strong majority government that could continue implementing reforms over the next four years.

“I have big ambitions for our second term and I know that in order to transform a country such as [this] you need at least two terms in order to be able to do that,” he told CNN late on Tuesday in his first interview since the vote.

“The populist opposition was essentially destroyed in this election. We have a 20-point margin. We gained twice as many votes as they did. I think something happened in Greece that will resonate across other liberal democracies when it comes to the inherent fight between people who are focused on offering solutions and people who are engaged in the lovely politics of offering empty promises.”

The 25 June poll will be held under a semi-proportional system that rewards the winning party with as many as 50 bonus seats in parliament if it wins 40% of the vote.

(The Guardian)

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