The leaders of two of the main parties in Greece have cast their votes as the country heads to the polls for the second time in less than two months on Sunday.
Conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, 55, is eyeing a second term as prime minister after his New Democracy party won by a huge margin in May elections – but fell short of gaining enough parliamentary seats to form a government.
“We are voting so people can have a stable government for the next four years,” Mitsotakis said after voting in northern Athens. “I am sure that Greeks will vote with maturity for their personal prosperity and the country’s stability.”
His main rival is Alexis Tsipras, 48, who leads the left-wing Syriza party and served as prime minister from 2015 to 2019 – some of the most turbulent years of Greece’s nearly decade-long financial crisis.
Tsipras fared dismally in the May elections, coming a distant second, 20 percentage points behind New Democracy. He has since been trying to rally his voter base, a task complicated by splinter parties formed by some of his former associates.
Speaking after voting in a western Athens neighbourhood, Tsipras seemed to accept his party would be in opposition for the next four years.
“This crucial election is not only determining who will govern the country, it is determining our lives for the next four years, it is determining the quality of our democracy,” Tsipras said. “It is determining whether we will have an unchecked government or a strong opposition. This role can only be played by Syriza.”
Migrant shipwreck disaster
Sunday’s vote comes after hundreds of migrants died and went missing in southern Greece when an overcrowded fishing trawler heading from Libya to Italy capsized and sank. The shipwreck drew criticism over how Greek authorities handled the rescue, as well as over the country’s restrictive migration policy.
But the disaster, one of the worst in the Mediterranean in recent years, has done little to dent Mitsotakis’ 20-point lead in opinion polls over Tsipras, with the economy at the forefront of most voters’ concerns.
As Greece gradually recovers from its brutal financial crisis, voters appear happy to return to power a prime minister who delivered economic growth and lowered unemployment.