Still reeling from the long-term effects of more than a decade of economic turmoil, most Greeks headed to the polls on 21 May expecting that this election would be far less fateful when compared to previous turbulent cycles during the crisis years, in which a feeling of relentless existential angst engulfed the Greek political system and society alike. Yet, what they got was nothing short of a political earthquake – one of the biggest surprises for Greece’s political scene since the restoration of democracy almost 50 years ago.
For long tipped to come out on top, New Democracy (ND) – Greece’s conservative ruling party – nonetheless routed its rivals, far surpassing even its own wildest predictions. Reversing a tradition that had seen no ruling party in Greece increase its vote share in decades, ND gained a double-digit, double-score lead over its main rival, left-wing SYRIZA – 40.79 to 20.07 per cent respectively. This translated into 146 seats in the 300-seat parliament, just four short of a majority, owing to a new electoral law that allocates seats on a purely proportional basis and that in practice reduces the chances of one-party governments – a standard phenomenon in the country.