Mitsotakis is allowed by the Greek voter to continue with his tough migration policy

His victory had been predicted, but no pollster had anticipated that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis would defeat his pursuers by such a margin. In the Greek elections, he and his center-right party Néa Dimokratia won almost 41 percent of the vote, against 20 percent for the left-wing Syriza, the number two in the election.

The incumbent prime minister is just short of governing alone. A government coalition, for example with the social-democratic Pasok, would be an option. But already on Monday, the day after the election, Mitsotakis called for a second round of elections, in which the winning side gets a good number of bonus seats. With the extra seats he hopes to secure, he would be able to govern alone, as his party has been doing since 2019. The eventual second round should be held at the end of June or the beginning of July.

Greek voters seem to be rewarding Mitsotakis for the relatively well-running economy. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s recently changed its outlook for the country from stable to positive. With this, the country has almost outgrown its ‘junk status’ after years of economic crisis: from then on, the country would be safe to invest in again. Concerns about the cost of living do not seem to be on the prime minister’s side, nor are a major wiretapping scandal and the train disaster that killed 57 people.

For Syriza, led by former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the election result is a hard blow. His party has lost a lot in recent years; in 2015 Syriza still received 36 percent of the vote and four years later 31 percent. Now only one in five Greek voters vote for the party. The result was also disappointing compared to the polls. Pasok, on the other hand, scored better than expected, with 11.5 percent of the vote. The radical left-wing former minister Yanis Varoufakis (Finance) and his party, MeRa25, did not reach the electoral threshold. He disappears from parliament.


With their vote for Mitsotakis, the Greeks also opt for his tough migration policy, which raises international concerns because of the neglect of (international) law. That policy includes extending the fence on the border with Turkey and pushing back migrants without giving them the chance to apply for asylum. Until now, Mitsotakis has always denied these pushbacks.

Turkish coastguard picks up migrants reportedly pushed back into the water by Greece.
Erdem Sahin/EPA’s photo

Last weekend published The New York Times a video which shows how 12 migrants, including a six-month-old baby, were locked in a white van on the Greek island of Lesbos, forced to board a speedboat, transferred to a Greek coastguard vessel and then caught in the middle of in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey on an inflatable life raft. This, according to the newspaper, is a violation of Greek, EU and international law.

The American newspaper was able to verify this pushback from start to finish, partly because an aid worker captured the events on video and because the Turkish authorities gave permission to interview 11 of the pushed back migrants at a detention center in the western Turkish port city of Izmir . These were Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans.

One of them, 40-year-old Somali widow Sulekha Abdullahi, was pushed back with six of her children. She said the masked men who drove them into the van posed as employees of the NGO Doctors Without Borders and robbed the group of migrants of everything they had on them, including cash and mobile phones.

Several media outlets and NGOs have already proven that the Greeks are pushing back migrants, but this verification by The New York Times seems to be the best documented pushback to date. The Greek authorities declined to comment on the publication. European Commissioner Ylva Johansson (Internal Affairs) said on Monday that a formal request has been sent to the Greek authorities “to fully and independently investigate this incident”. According to Johansson, the European Commission is “ready to take formal action against Greece if necessary”.

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2023-05-22 14:41:49

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