Conservatives riding high into Greek local polls


Greeks return to the polling booths Sunday, a week after a European ballot that saw the conservatives gain against the ruling left just over a month before they face off in general elections, reports BSS/AFP. The New Democracy party will be hoping to repeat its European election performance, when it took 33 percent of the vote — nine points more than the ruling Syriza party.

The unexpectedly poor result prompted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to call parliamentary elections for July 7, three months earlier than scheduled. Sunday sees the second round of voting for city mayors and regional governors.

In the first round of local and regional elections in May, New Democracy won five of Greece’s 13 regions, while the left took just one. The leftists appear set to lose control of the capital, Athens, and the second city of Thessaloniki in the north.

Observers attribute the conservative resurgence in part to a controversial renaming deal between Greece and its neighbour which is now called North Macedonia, formerly Macedonia. Backed by Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev, the deal ended a long-running dispute between the two countries.

The dispute dated back to North Macedonia’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, when it declared that it wanted to be called Macedonia over the objections of Greece, which has a northern province by the same name. The resolution of the deal meant Athens dropped its opposition to its neighbour’s bid to join the European Union, but the agreement has been denounced by nationalists in both countries.