Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the snap vote three months ahead of schedule, following the May defeat at the ballot box by conservative New Democracy (ND) of Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Tsipras’s coalition with right-wing Independent Greeks collapsed last January over a name-change deal with neighboring North Macedonia. His government barely survived a vote of confidence.
A Pulse survey out Thursday gave New Democracy an eight-point lead over Syriza. Mitsotakis’s opposition party is projected to win 155 to 159 seats in the 300-seat parliament.
There is a general conviction among experts that New Democracy will win the polls by a wide margin. The real question is whether it can get the outright majority to govern alone after a decade of weak coalitions.
"I think that the outcome will be a clear victory of ND. Although you never know, as we say, everyone is certain about it," Theodore Chadjipadelis, a professor at Aristotle University, told Sputnik.
Four smaller parties are also expected to make it to the parliament, Theofanis Exadaktylos, a senior lecturer in European politics at the University of Surrey, said.
A rebranded Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or Pasok, is expected to make a comeback. The social democratic party had ruled Greece for three decades before suffering a crashing blow during the financial crisis.
Parties that will compete for New Democracy voters are new right-wing religious-oriented Greek Solution and a very diminished nationalist Golden Dawn, while the Greek Communists and DiEM25 of ex-Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will try to pick up leftist votes with their extreme left agendas.
ND Government: What’s Next?
A New Democracy government will most likely keep Syriza’s foreign policies while projecting an image of a more reliable partner to the European Union and the United States, experts agreed.
Greece adopted a pro-EU and NATO stance after the 2015 national elections, a line that is only going to strengthen under a center-right government, which may also want to get along with its NATO ally Turkey.
"We are looking at a policy of repositioning Greece within European institutions and structures as a central country, an improved relationship with the US but also an effort of appeasement of Turkey," Exadaktylos said.
Change will be more profound on the domestic front where ex-banker Mitsotakis is expected to turn around the leftist predecessor’s public sector oriented policies to empower business.
Mitsotakis has promised during the campaign to lower taxes and privatize public services. Exadaktylos said that translated to more austerity, with reforms to staff recruitment that would shrink the public sector.
Chrysanthos Tassis, a lecturer in political sociology and Greek politics at the Democritus University of Thrace, said ND would have an opportunity to introduce a different economic policy with a neoliberal touch to it.
This will include the introduction of a flat-rate tax to attract foreign investment and liberalization of labor laws to make hiring and firing easier as the cost of labor is considered crucial in bringing in foreign capital.
In the public sector, the conservative party will promote operations under the cost-to-benefit criteria of the private sector and move to outsourcing in the traditionally state-controlled education and health sectors.
The socially-conservative ND may even attempt to backtrack or stall some of the progressive current policies, such as on immigration, ties between the Church and the State and LGBT rights, Vasilis Leontitsis, a senior lecturer in globalization studies at the University of Brighton, predicted.
There is not expected to be a reversal of the deal with North Macedonia despite ND’s opposition to negotiations last summer, all experts agreed.
End of Road For Syriza?
A series of domestic crises, including a deadly fire which killed over a hundred near Athens last year, and the Macedonia deal, will prevent Syriza from recovering immediately.
Exadaktylos said there were two paths for Syriza: it could continue shrinking to a medium-sized party, with voters looking elsewhere for a social democratic alternative, or build up its power to challenge ND on its neoliberal agenda and return to power within a few years.
"The big bet … is to retain a sizeable proportion of the votes … It will be an achievement for the party to solidify its position as the second pole of the Greek party system," Leontitsis said.
Syriza rose from a marginal party and ascended to the big politics because of its radical politics. As an opposition party, it may be once again be able to exploit its radical political language without being constrained by the government role.