ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece is heading toward a new general election, two days after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ center-right New Democracy party won a victory in a national vote but failed to clinch a majority in parliament.
A power-sharing deal was put mathematically out of reach Tuesday, after the main opposition party formally received — and summarily rejected — an invitation to try and form the country’s next government.
Mitsotakis had swiftly ruled out seeking a coalition, opting instead for a second election, expected on June 25. That would introduce a change in the electoral system that favors the winning party and likely hand him an outright victory.
The 55-year-old Mitsotakis won just over 40% of the vote Sunday, hammering his main opponent by 20 points. He has promised to continue pro-business reforms, tough policies to combat illegal migration, and high defense spending as Greece recovers from a major financial crisis in the previous decade.
Under Greece’s constitution, the first three parties are awarded up to three days each to try and form a government before parliament is dissolved and a new election is called.
The left-wing Syriza party, led by former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, was obliged to reject the mandate for forming a government when received Tuesday by President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.
“I have no reason to hide that the election result is a painful shock for us. Unexpected and painful,” Tsipras told reporters after the meeting.
The 48-year-old opposition leader now faces a challenge from the third-placed center-left Pasok party that once dominated Greek politics, but saw its popular support plummet during the financial crisis and a series of painful international bailouts.
Tsipras said he wasn’t considering stepping down, and promised to fight on to try and curb the dominance of the conservatives.
“Imagine an all-powerful, unaccountable ruler-prime minister if these (current) results are repeated,” he told reporters outside the president’s official residence.
“In its first four years in power, this government demonstrated that it has no respect for the rule of law, democracy or political pluralism … so the big picture is the need to prevent having a murky, unaccountable, hegemonic and arrogant government.”
Under an official allocation announced Tuesday, New Democracy won 146 seats in the 300-member parliament, five shy of a governing majority. Syriza had 71, followed by Pasok with 41, the Greek Communist Party with 26, and the right-wing Hellenic Solution with 16.
The Pasok leader, Nikos Androulakis, later Tuesday formally received the third and final invitation to try and form a government, which he promptly returned. He would have been unable to put forward a viable proposal without the support of the first or second party, which had already been ruled out.
On Wednesday, Sakellaropoulou is expected to consult with Mitsotakis, Tsipras and Androulakis on the possibility of a commonly-agreed caretaker government to organize the forthcoming election. If that effort fails, a top judge will be appointed caretaker prime minister.
Sunday’s elections were held under a system of proportional representation applied for the first time in more than three decades. The next ballot will see election rules revert to a pro-majority system, handing the winning party a so-called election bonus of up to 50 seats.
The date of the next election will depend on a number of procedural issues, most important of which are the assembly and disolution of the newly-elected parliament.