New PM Mitsotakis: ‘Voters gave us strong mandate to change Greece’

Athens – Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the conservative New Democracy (ND) party, was sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister on Monday, after a landslide victory on promises of lowering taxes and creating jobs.

The people have chosen

Less than 24 hours earlier, ND resoundingly defeated Mitsotakis’ leftist rival Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party in the first parliamentary elections since Greece emerged from a crippling financial crisis.

Defeated premier Tsipras and analysts attributed the election result to harsh reforms his government was forced to implement under the terms of international bailouts, the last of which expired in August.

ND won an outright majority of 158 seats in the 300-member parliament, allowing Mitsotakis to govern without a coalition partner and to take office immediately.

Mitsotakis promised to attract investments and fuel growth with tax cuts, create jobs and generally improve the standard of living, which has steadily deteriorated for the average Greek during the economic crisis.

“I asked and the voters gave us strong mandate to change Greece,” Mitsotakis said after President Prokopis Pavlopoulos swore him in earlier Monday.

Economic reforms to be introduced

Events unfolded quickly after polling stations closed on Sunday, and the whirlwind aftermath, without major celebrations, underlines the sense of urgency that Mitsotakis had already conveyed during the campaign.

He was due to present his cabinet later Monday. It is expected to be sworn in Tuesday, and will face a vote of confidence in parliament on July 21.

There will be no usual four-week vacation for lawmakers in August, Mitsotakis announced.

He intends to put Greece firmly on the path towards full economic recovery by softening the conditions of debt repayment to creditors.

Greece must currently maintain a budget surplus of 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product. This is essentially a guarantee to creditors.

Mitsotakis wants to reduce that margin, saying it has the effect of slamming the brakes on the economy. But he also said he wants to carry out reforms to ensure economic growth before he asks creditors for favours.

“When creditors see our growth policy yielding results, then we can talk about the surplus,” he explained.

A new chapter with Europe

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Mitsotakis and wished Greeks “who have endured so much over the last decade,” to “open a new, brighter chapter.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Tsipras and his team, “for making it possible, even in these very challenging years, to have a confiding and respectful relationship with each other,” her spokesman said.

And to Mitsotakis, she said that “we hope to continue developing our bilateral collaboration in the friendly and confidential manner as before.”

“Both countries can contribute to strengthening the EU and that things continue to develop well in Greece – is in the interest of its citizens, who have had to carry heavy burdens in these past years,”  Merkel said.