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Greece's Tsipras to call snap elections after heavy defeat

Tsipras: ‘The electoral result … is not worthy of our expectations’ [Costas Baltas/Reuters]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called snap national elections after suffering a heavy defeat by the opposition conservatives in European Parliament and local polls.

With an unexpectedly severe pounding at the ballot box on Sunday for his leftist Syriza party, Tsipras decided not to push through to a full term which expires in October.

A likely date for the ballot is June 30.

“Following the second round of local elections (on June 2), I will ask the president (of the republic) to immediately call national elections,” Tsipras said.

“The electoral result … is not worthy of our expectations,” he said.

With about a third of polling stations accounted for, Syriza scored less than 24 percent in the European ballot compared to more than 33 percent for the main opposition conservative party New Democracy.

And in local elections, early results showed New Democracy in control, or securing outright, the bulk of Greece’s 13 regions.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis demanded Tsipras resign, saying he had lost the popular mandate.

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“The prime minister must assume his responsibilities. For the good of the country he must resign and the country should hold national elections, the soonest possible,” Mitsotakis said.

Once a leftist firebrand, Tsipras, 44, mellowed after sweeping to power in January 2015 and telling the country’s creditors to back off in 2015.

But he was forced into a painful new bailout months later, when faced with a choice of that or being turfed out of the euro zone and into the financial wilderness. The capitulation went down badly with many voters.

Greece emerged from close financial supervision by its lenders in August 2018. The government this month, days before the election, introduced tax cuts and pension payouts, going some way towards unwinding some of the austerity measures.

Meanwhile, Tsipras’ decision to broker a deal ending a name dispute with North Macedonia earned kudos from his European partners, but proved deeply unpopular with many Greeks.

His coalition partner, Panos Kammenos, pulled out of the government in January, triggering a confidence vote in parliament that Tsipras nonetheless won comfortably.

For most, use of the Macedonia name is an appropriation of Greek heritage by the country’s small neighbour. Regardless, Tsipras signed the name-change deal in June, on the banks of the Prespes Lake bordering Albania, Greece and North Macedonia.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies