- By Nick Beake in Athens & Paul Kirby in London
- BBC news
Greece’s conservative New Democracy Party is set to win Sunday’s election but lacks a handful of seats to win outright.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ party is heading for 41%, based on more than half of the vote.
He’s far ahead of his predecessor, Syriza, the centre-back of his predecessor Alexis Tsipras, who accounted for only 20%.
Despite the big win, the center-right could choose to enter a second round of voting rather than form a coalition.
An early opinion poll showing victory for the centre-right was greeted with applause at the headquarters of the New Democracy Party in Athens. When the results came out, it was clear that pre-election polls had underestimated the large disparity between the two main parties.
One of the other big winners in the election appears to be Pasok, Syriza’s socialist rival, whose first result brought in 12% of the vote.
That would make the party a potential king in the coalition talks in the coming days.
Mr Mitsotakis’ centre-right wing has run Greece for the past four years and can boast that the country’s growth last year was close to 6%.
His declaration to the nation was that only he could be trusted to steer the Greek economy forward and underpin recent growth. Most Greeks seem to have responded positively – and more than expected.
However, the election campaign was overshadowed by a railway tragedy in February that left 57 people dead, many of them students.
Opposition parties have highlighted the disaster as a symptom of dysfunction that has been reduced to the marrow of the bones after years of economic crisis and underinvestment.
Panayiotis, 47, voted for New Democracy a few hundred meters from the Acropolis in Athens.
Greece deserves a better form of politics, he told the BBC, but he backed Mr Mitsotakis because he was impressed with his track record after four years as prime minister.
Four years ago, winning 41% of the vote was enough to secure a majority in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.
It now claims more than 45%, because the winning side is no longer entitled to the 50-seat bonus in the first round, making the second round more likely.
If New Democracy’s numbers grow, it could form a coalition government with center-left rivals Pasok. But that is not a sure thing.
Pasok leader Nikos Androulakis may find it difficult to work in government with Mr Mitsotakis because of last year’s wiretapping scandal.
Mr Androulakis believes the prime minister knew he was one of dozens of people targeted by illegal spyware.
The scandal led to the resignation of a nephew of Mr. Mitsotakis, who is the prime minister’s chief of staff and head of the Greek intelligence agency.
Mr. Mitsotakis may decide to put all his energy into the second round of voting. That could give him an outright majority and another four years with a cabinet of his choice.