- By Nick Peake in Athens and Paul Kirby in London
- BBC News
Greece’s conservative New Democracy is on course to win Sunday’s election, but falls short of a majority for outright victory, preliminary results suggest.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s party won 41% based on half the votes.
He fared well ahead of predecessor Alexis Tsipras’ centre-left Syriza, with just 20%.
Despite its big win, the centre-right may opt for a second round of voting rather than form a coalition.
Early polls showing a victory for the center-right were greeted with cheers at the headquarters of the New Democratic Party in Athens. As the results came in, it was clear that the pre-election polls had underestimated the huge difference between the two major parties.
Another big winner in the election was SYRIZA’s socialist rival Pazok, which the first results gave 12% of the vote.
That will make the party king in coalition talks in the coming days.
Mr Mitsotakis’ centre-right has ruled Greece for the past four years and can boast that the country’s growth was close to 6% last year.
His pitch to the nation is that he alone can be trusted to steer the Greek economy forward and consolidate recent growth. Most Greeks seem to have responded positively – and more than expected.
However, the election campaign was marred by a train tragedy in February that killed 57 people, many of them students.
Opposition parties have highlighted the disaster as a sign of a skeletally dysfunctional state after years of economic crisis and underinvestment.
Panayiotis, 47, voted for New Democracy a few hundred meters from the Acropolis in Athens.
Greece deserves better politics, he told the BBC, but he supported Mr Mitsotakis because he was impressed by his record after four years as prime minister.
Four years ago, 41% of the vote would have been enough to secure a majority in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.
Now it needs more than 45% because the winning party will not get bonus 50 seats in the first round, it is more likely for the second round.
If New Democracy’s tally holds, it could form a coalition government with centre-left rivals Basak. But it is by no means a given.
Pasok leader Nikos Androulakis may find it difficult to serve in government with Mr Mitsotakis because of the wiretap scandal last year.
Mr Androulakis believes the prime minister knew he was one of dozens targeted by illegal spyware.
The scandal led to the resignation of Mr Mitsotakis’ son-in-law, who served as the prime minister’s chief of staff and head of Greek intelligence.
Mr Mitsotakis may decide to channel all his energy into a second round of voting. That could give him an absolute majority and four more years with the cabinet he wants.
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